|Leo Komarov - www.canada.com|
I told my fellow hockey fans that I didn't expect anything from the Leafs except some building blocks and a taste of the playoffs. It was a young energetic team that was gaining valuable experience. They were great days to be a Leafs Fan.
I was happy to see them win 1 game in the series. I really liked the 'lunch bucket' attitude they had. They had lots of grit, for-check and toughness.
This was a team to be proud of - they left it all out there and played for each other.
All other teams hated the Leafs. Not because of the cliche 'leafs suck'. But because the Leafs broke other teams. They were tough to play against. With 1 line of skilled players (JVR/Boz/Kess) and 3 lines of fast, pesky, grinding players with some fists to back it up they were formidable.
That all changed last year when the 2nd line was gutted (Grabo/MacArthur/Kule) in favor of Kadri and Lupol. Those 2 were decent but their lack of production put more strain on the top line to score. Kadri didn't live up to the hype and the pressure put on him.
Not signing Leo last year lost the Leafs more grit.
The Lunch Bucket hard working team transformed into 1 line of skill that scored almost every goal on a 2 on 1 breakaway. Leafs couldn't keep the puck in the offensive zone because they no longer had any grinders.
That meant more D-zone time which is where it all fell apart.
The balance was lost. Sure the D was a disaster, but had the puck not been in the D zone as much - I think they could have held back the 12 game collapse.
I sincerely hope the 'brass' is trying to re-capture some of what they cut last season and make this team worthy of pride again.
Sure - leadership is important - but so is some of the lunch bucket effort.