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It is heartening to discover Ostrich’s are not an endangered species.

And by Ostrich, I refer, affectionately, of course, to Leafs Ostrich’s---fans who stick their heads in the sand and remain buoyant and eternally optimistic in spite of the obvious: that The Leafs might not have improved enough to be any different from last season.

After Monday’s 4-0 loss to Buffalo, there were some fans in fan-forums, newspaper letters sections and radio call-in programs that warned The Leafs sure looked a lot like the abysmal team of 2005-2006 even after parting company  with coach Pat Quinn, old-timers Tie Domi and Ed Belfour and failed-experiments Jason Allison and Eric Lindros among others.  They were still plodding and uncoordinated without defined set plays.  Their defense was disjointed and ineffective, but was only redeemed by the even more inept and absent offense.

Were these not the same observations many Leafs fans decried last year at this time?  The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems.

The Sabres, by comparison, looked like a Cup-contender.

The usual response by the Ostrich’s was ‘for god’s sake, it’s only the first game of the pre-season.  Geez, they’re still gelling and figuring things out, trying new guys and working out tandems and plays.  Give it some time.  Half the guys are rookies.’  That has some merit, but only some.  While much can be changed and improved before the season starts, determination, drive and spirit should not need to be.  It might just be a case of first-game jitters, getting used to one another, a lot of young new faces learning a new system, but the fact is, most of the players looked as if they already had positions locked-up and that is not the progressive attitude I expected to see.  Older players needed to lead by example and play like it was the playoffs and the younger players needed to display their youth and desire to be on the squad.  In most cases, neither was evident.

There remained the same old mistakes: too many penalties, no offense and awkward defense.  I mean, this is the moment the offensive players have been waiting for, right?  The time they get to show what they’ve got to the coaches and management so they can earn a spot on one of the top two lines.  This is their time to shine.  So, why didn’t they on Monday night?
Most Leafs fans expected to see an inspired team, a vibrant team, a team geared-up and raring to go.  They’ve had three months off and they have something to prove.  Last year was a disaster, after all, in spite of the valiant run for a playoff berth in April and May.  Both the guys that were there and the new ones replacing the dismissed should have been showing fans that they weren’t about to deliver a repeat performance.  But that’s not what Leafs fans saw.  They saw a few guys playing well and most other guys out for a Sunday skate.  That’s not an encouraging start.

It’s seems, at least in the absence of a detailed review of each team’s performance in their first games, that most other teams already have a plan, a chemistry, a direction and they are all integrating new acquisitions and trying out raw rookies too.  Why are The Leafs different?

What is perhaps most frightening is that if there are so many teams already better than The Leafs, one may presume they will only get better as they, too, gel and develop chemistry, so the gap between them will remain consistent unless dramatic improvement is established.

I can’t lay the blame on Maurice---not yet at least.  He has proven himself in the past and is so new to his position he hasn’t been able to stamp his character on the team yet.  But he can only work with what JFJ gives him and JFJ hasn’t given him much.  Exactly what defenders of Quinn said last year.

I’ll refrain from dumping it all in JFJ’s lap just yet because certainly the responsibility for the play on the ice really is mostly the players’.  Of course I’m fully prepared to dump it squarely in his lap when it is again established that JFJ neither has nor made appropriate effort to acquire the right players.

Okay, it’s only the first game, but first impressions are everything.

The More Things Change.... by The EnigManiac  09/21/06
The Season that Never Was.... by Leafer 3/27/06
I hate to say it, but I told you so.

Right from the start of the year, I knew the leafs wouldn't make the playoffs. Our playoff hopes and aspirations were all placed on one mans big fat giant mellonhead.

Now granted, Lindros did not sustain the predicted head injury...he still got injured. That doesn't help the team.

But we put our fate on the back of old man Belfour...who I am the first to note has not failed us before this year. But if the past means anything about the here and the now, then why would anybody ever retire?

Now granted my belief in the leafs was low to begin with coming into the start of this year, I am still dissappointed. I wanted us to get younger, and kick start the rebuilding process. The trade deadline for me was the time to part ways with some of our older and valuable players.

No, I don't blame them for the failure of the team, and yes I admire them for all they have done before this year. Thats just the thing though. Players like Mats Sundin have given so much to the organization, the least we could do is give them a chance at the cup. This year obviously wasn't the year for the leafs, so why not give them that chance somewhere else?

Mats is too classy of a guy to ask for a trade, or suggest he would waive his no trade clause when asked by the media. Instead, MLSE (JFJ) should have taken the initiative and found him a Cup Contender to play for. Not only would it have given Sundin the chance to win a Cup, but it also would help the future of the Leaf organization in their quest to build a cup winner.
I am sick of the win now approach that brings in top players at high prices every year. I was hoping the salary cap would change all that, but it hasn't really thus far. Just made us take chances on injury prone players.

Thats all in the past however. It has happened, no matter how much I don't like it, I can't change it, so it is best not to dwell on it. This year is all but shot, and it looks like a year without playoff hockey.

My negitiveity ends here. There are some positives that can still come from this season:

1) Our Rookies. We have had so many rooks playing with us ths year. That has been a rareity in previous years. Welwood had flashes of brilliance, and Steen has been not just a top rookie on our team, but a top forward in general.

2) Alexi Ponikarovsky and his breakout year. Let's hope he can reach that elusive 20 goal mark (he sits at 17).

3) Telly...he has atleast prooven he can be a reliable back up. Now the problem is a reliabl starter.

4) A premature positive, but Rask and Pogge were the best goalies at the world Jr tourny. In a few years to come, atleast one of them should end up being the real deal.

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