The Toronto Maple Leafs may not win a lot of games this season, but the opposition won’t be leaving the rinks with a full set of teeth.
A team that Brian Burke envisioned as truculent, belligerent and pugnacious hit the ice last night in a no holds barred match-up. There were five fights by the end of the game; the Leafs winning three of them. Surprisingly, pugilist Colton Orr didn’t drop the gloves once, but he used his body a few times to deliver some big hits. Garnet Exelby, Francois Beauchemin, Phil Oreskovic and a number of others also didn’t shy away from the rough stuff.
The Bruins may have won 3-2, but the Leafs proved to be a tough customer and were never “picking their teeth out of the glass.”
And it is this new mantra that will help propel the Leafs to respectability once more. Forget the playoffs. Even if the Leafs continue their post-season drought, the team will upgrade in an aspect they were desperately lacking last season––toughness. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first step.
While the likes of Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovski and Jason Blake cannot be expected to display an optimal amount of testosterone, there are a variety of players more than willing to defend their teammates. Whether it is by way of the fists or a body check is up to them, but you can bet the Leafs will be one badass mutha to play against.
Cynics may determine anything but a post-season berth a failure, but let’s be realistic. The Leafs have had an abundance of problems since the post-lockout, and the General Managers they’ve assigned to remedy the issues have done a mediocre job, to say the least. As of today, fans of the Blue and White can honestly say their team is officially on the right track, choosing to build through the draft and young talent rather than signing veteran players via free agency––Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg were exceptional last night. And therein lies my point. We’re comparing this year’s lineup to an essentially abysmal group of players from seasons past, so of course expectations have been magnified. Let’s face it, we haven’t seen even a moderately solid club in a long time, so now that the pieces are in place, some of us are getting a little overenthusiastic at times––and I won’t lie, myself included.
The Leafs are entering the early stages of rebuilding, so expecting the team to suddenly ascend into prosperity may be a little premature––although I think the majority of Leafs fans have withheld from the fan boy syndrome.
The Leafs may not be the most successful team this season, but atleast Leafs fans will be able to say their team punched the snot out of half the league’s players. And that is enough to put a smile on this Leafs fan.
This is just the beginning. Even after 42 years, patience is still required, Leafs fans.
The Leafs hit the ice again tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers, another team who have never shied away from dropping the gloves. Should see a whole lot of fisticuffs tonight, folks.