While most fans in Leaf Nation are of the -- how to I put this softly? -- insane kind, they do finally have something to cheer about. And not necessarily on the scoreboard. There have been some really good performances of late. I am a big fan, wear my "leaf" on my sleave (and love givin' it to the Sens fans in the office) but I am realistic.
Luke Schenn really is the "real deal". There was a comment that Greg Millen had made saying that everytime he goes into the corner, he comes up with the puck and makes a good play to move the puck. When I watched the Ottawa game, I paid close attention to that. Sure enough, he was stellar. Finally, a defenceman who can battle in the defencive-side of the rink and get the puck. All too often, the Leafs defence have been out-muscled and out-worked down low on our end. I didn't pay attention too much to Finger but I understand he is a similar shut-down type. I bet Toskala is liking this.
And speaking of Vesa Toskala, he's improving too. The one thing I found in pre-season and the first 3 or so games of the regular season was he was dropping to his knees to quickly and getting pucks fired over his shoulders. He's standing a bit more which I think is due to his defence blocking so many shots. They've got down low covered so he's blocking the upper part of the net. Wilson knows what Toskala needs to be successful and he is providing it.
Now Ron Wilson is not the second coming of Punch Imlack but I like his style. But what he is doing, in essence, it taking on the role of the captain in calling players out. That is one things Mats Sundin could not do. To be captain, its not to be liked but to lead. I think that was Mats' undoing in the dressing room. Its also the role Gary Roberts used to play and why when they were together they were (relatively) successful.
Another player I've noticed is Nik Hagmann. Man that guy works hard. Once he starts finding the net the offence will be spread nice. I really think him, Kuleman, and Garbovski are the best line, just snake bit!
Now, what is a reasonable expectation???? .500? Better? I've also thought that the Leafs were better than they were being portrayed. Keeping the bar low and over-achieving -> smart because if they fail, they were expected to; if they make the playoffs, who knew??? But even if they were to finish dead-last, I would bet they'd lose the draft lottery! I think they have to rely on the scouting to get the best they can in the draft, regardless of their draft position. Look at Detroit who haven't had a good draft position in years!
So, reasonable expectation: they'll finish between 4th and 14th in the conference. What do you expect? We've only had 7 games!