Tag Archive for Toronto Maple Leafs

Hockey : Diving With Betttman

1220 for publication Friday May 5, 2017

Ross Brewitt

Do you recall, in this present season now into its last act, when goal production was called into question by the NHL’s Commissioner? Well, do you?

They were looking for something, anything, new rules, circular nets, open season on running goalies, and no-defenders allowed within the new no-go-area painted green and cerise between corner face-off circles.

The first paragraph was true, some of the second wasn’t’. You decide.

Of course the NHL, in its wisdom, rejected out-of-hand any of those crisp and effective, yet flawed suggestions needing more work. Still, as the NHL were scratching their heads and looking blankly at each other, time marched on and, who would’a guessed, the goals started to come. True, they were fewer, with only a few outbreaks of blowouts, but it was accomplished without doing any tinkering.

To their credit, the NHL withdrew their panic. Imagine, cost-savings and progress realized by using common sense on the problem. Whatta concept!

Take a fledgling team like Toronto, peppered with rookies up front and at the blueline, who became the darlings of tight hockey and wedged themselves into a post-season spot. They entertained fans with overtime games and one goal wins while losing in six against the Capitals, only the best team in hockey over the season. That took penalty control.

Montreal enlisted a new “old” coach, Claude Julien, and just made it into the post season, Ottawa did the same, getting Guy Boucher to take the Senator reins.

For me this was the most surprising coaching change coming into the season, and now, today, the Sens are still in the hunt. We had last seen Guy Boucher as the wild-eyed, growly, short-fused coach who harped his way out of a job in Tampa Bay. This new version is the quieter, calmer model and the team has responded.

The Oilers look like a team with the tenacity that will need a game seven with the Ducks to win. They lack the experience of Anaheim, have the legs and firepower to prevail, yet patience will be their key to any success.

However, as I have warned many times, there is this nasty feeling a series, perhaps the Stanley Cup Final could be decided on a penalty advantage gained by a “dive.”

It’s always a cowardly, disgusting way to play the game. With the rise in diving, don’t look to the League to take control or any leadership in exterminating the practice. Little has been done since the arrival of diving in the 70’s. Frankly, there is no excuse, none, for allowing it to continue.

My thoughts on the subject have been printed here. Often. My concern is, an important game is going to be won, or lost, on a phony penalty, the result of a dive.

So, it comes down to Mr. Bettman, and since he has had so much success in dealing with the players and their Union, it’s about time to get serious, and enlist their support before hockey is dragged down to the status of soccer. Hockey used to be the “tough guy sport, the sport other pros in other sports point to when asked about “tough’.

Most recently, the dive on Wednesday night when Penguin Nick Bonino successfully staged a stick in the vicinity of his shoulder, into a high-stick to the face penalty for Washington’s T.J. Oshie. It was a joke, And the joke was made obvious on TV-replay.

Therefore, why not give the referees a review? Why not afford them their own check, their own conference, and call an obvious dive a foul with some clout. Let’s say four minutes for diving!

With the advent of cameras everywhere, and the technology to back them up, diving can easily be exposed.

Mr. Bettman, why not go down in sports history as the big-league commissioner who eliminated diving, rather than the guy who helps promote it?

Otherwise, you are going to be sorry for your lack of judgment and control. If your players are trying such underhanded moves in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it means they have gone over the limit. It indicatess even the players don’t care anymore. That means you are headed for a breakdown, one you can avoid.

Like a Stanley Cup won or lost on a foul.

Who’s the Captain of this Barge?

1219 for publication April 28, 2017

Ross Brewitt

Who’s the newest captain of the Leafs going to be?

The question was first raised by “Mike,” a long-serving friend of mine and a lifelong subscriber to the Maple Leaf lifestyle. These days his calendar is filled with figuring out where all the pieces fit, what new pieces they’ll need, and it’s not like he’s alone.

A few generations of Leaf fans, some able to cheer their heroes forward with more than a quick-fix on to base their enthusiasm on, are enjoying the luxury of “looking ahead” as opposed to looking back, at old glories in the fading rear-view mirror. We expect these legions to grow considering the numbers coming out of the closet after years of submerging their backing and allegiance.

Based on the performance of the present Leafs, holding a top team in hockey down to six games decided by one goal, eight periods of extra-fun hockey played over six games, and only one concluded without overtime, underlines how the Leafs came that close to upsetting “number one” over the regular season.

By mid-term it was expected the Leafs were a better team, a competitive team. No-one knew how long it would last, or how it would translate into a playoff atmosphere. Now they find themselves the toast of Leaf fans coast-to-coast. Even better, there are those inside hockey and other fans who admire what they’ve accomplished.

The reality will come October ’17 when much more will be expected of them, or else.

In the meantime let’s get back to this new Leaf’s choice for captain. At present Toronto has four “A’s.” In my opinion, they should continue that format through the coming season. Realistically, I’m figuring if they don’t pick-up Jonathan Toews or Erik Karlsson in a deal in the off-season, (yeah, right,) there are two outstanding choices for captain in the fold right now. Mike Rielly, and/or Auston Matthews. The other Mike, my pal Mike, thinks it goes to Matthews, right now, no hesitation, no contest.

Having been around the NHL scene, watching captains come and go on many teams, I’ve often found the next captain selected was often not the slam dunk he seemed to be. It’s not always the team’s best player standing on skates. It’s not the oldest, nor the youngest, and there’s where we are with a captain-in-waiting for Toronto. That’s the obvious dilemma in dealing with a popularity contests pitted against cold, hard, necessity.

Past Leafs were a mixed bag. Example George Armstrong was an excellent “C.” Yet Dave Keon hated the assignment. Both were very private people, the perfect example of straightforward service, and unmistakable disregard.

See, the captain wears many off-ice hats, he’s the buffer between the front office, and the coaches when a wrong turn is made by one or the other parties. A captain is an ombudsman, often burdened with minor aggravations, disputes between players and coaching staff, someone to fill a required date at a hospital, the kinds of public relation requirements all teams assume once the season begins.

That availability of players is often disrupted with team priority requirements for injury rehab, changes in the lineups, reassignment to the minors, treatments, and family matters.

But by and large, the captain is the face of the on-ice product. Barring injury he must be an everyday player and a front-man, someone with the presence to settle internal disputes between teammates, management, media and coaches. For that he uses his standing within the team and his trust and perceived impartiality to settle disputes for the good of the team.

That area alone is the big responsibility.

Within those considerations, Rielly at age 23, has shown improvement in his standing and grasp of the NHL game. It’s improving at a rapid pace for a young defensive player. The difference between the two, is summed up in Rielly’s longer range of eon-the-job experience.

The good news may be having four A’s carry the load for the next two seasons and then put the right man in line for the job. It will allow the next captain of the Leafs to show his leadership and talents in that area. Keeping in mind these two excellent candidates to be the “players public face,” will ideally be a long term assignment.

What’s the rush? Looks like the talent will be there, on the job, when the time comes for the Leafs to “C.”