Thursday, February 05, 2004

Let's get ready to rrrrumble

In this corner, wearing the white and blue trunks, the pride and joy of the Cabbagetown boxing club, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Well it won't be quite that bad tonight at the Corel Centre when those Bay Street Bullies pull into town, but with all the hype around this game it's pretty close.

Ottawa hockey fans have taken to wringing their hands of late, obsessing over the idea that their team just isn't tough enough. So much so that even John Muckler is making some unusual inquiries. Word is out that Muckler has contacted retired pugilist, Rob Ray, with an eye to having him work off the rust and be ready for the playoffs. The usual cast of tough guy suspects is also being bounced around as trade possibilities, Georges Laraque in Edmonton seemingly the flavour of the hour of late. In a bid to shore up the muscle for the short term, the Sens acquired Todd Simpson from Anaheim, giving up Peter Schastlivy in return. Simpson brings his 105 penalty minutes this year to the Sens uniform.

All of this stems from Saturday night's televised hard hitting and sometimes violent affair, where fists and sticks flew at a furious pace. It's a yearly call from Sens fans, are we tough enough, and after the hostilities of last Saturday many say no. The Sens for their part don't quite agree that they are a collection of shy, fancy skaters, afraid to get into the corners and hit or be hit. They claim all this noise over the physical aspect is just so much hype. They feel comfortable with their team and say that they won't be pushed around. As for Jacques Martin he makes a valid point about all this talk of a needed physical presence. Last Saturday, the tactics of the Leafs resulted in sixteen power play opportunities. Had the Sens power play been successful on only half, the Senators would have won the game by a large margin. No doubt the Leafs would have had to change their tactics as the goals kept increasing. Rather than loading up on bruisers, they need to work on the power play combinations, start scoring goals and the physical play will take care of itself.

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