Thursday, January 26, 2006

High Anxiety in Hogtown

The Basketball team is in turmoil, the General Manager was dismissed earlier today as Raptor fans try to come to grips with a team that gives up 81 points to one player and seemingly can't win games to save their souls. Further down the halls at the Air Canada Centre the Maple Leafs go through their own tribulations. With play of similar nature, Toronto's two winter sport teams are feeling the pain these days. And if the fans are concerned about their basketball team they're down right apoplectic about the hockey team.

Thursday night saw the Leafs drop their seventh straight game, this time an 8-4 loss to the injury depleted Buffalo Sabres. Ed Belfour was taken out of the game after the Sabres fourth goal in the early stages of the second period, the struggling Belfour gave up two goals of a questionable nature. His replacement, Michael Telqvist was sent in to face the Sabres and found himself surrendering four goals of his own before the Leafs called it a night.

And while the goaltending left a lot to be desired for the Maple Leafs, the offensive output was rather feeble as well. Despite the four goal burst by the Buds, the third period tells one more than you need to know about the state of Maple Leaf hockey this year. The Leafs managed only six shots on net in the final period, giving their fans ample time to contemplate the best way to boo them off the ice, something that faced the Leafs at the final buzzer.

The Leafs tumbled to ninth place with the loss, out of the playoff race for the time being and giving the Maple Leaf Nation the chance to grumble aloud about a need for a change. All this week the rumours have run rampant around the Leafs, a trade for Sundin or the firing of Pat Quinn, take your pick each has had more than its fair share of exposure over the last few days.

The idea of dismissing Quinn seems a bit hard to understand, he has not exactly been blessed with a solid line up to compete with. Defensively the Leafs have lost their way, far too often defencemen leave two or three opponents in front of the net, should the goaltenders make the initial save, someone is handy to bang in a rebound. Backchecking has also been something that the majority of Leafs seem disinclined to engage in, far too many nights have seen two or three opposing players breaking over the blue line unmolested. No wonder the goaltenders are having problems, they're truly the last line of defence, many nights with no reinforcements in sight. That being said, there are rumblings that Quinn has lost the confidence of the team and seems unable to use his players properly, whichever thought eventually becomes the widely held theory will dictate Quinn's future in Toronto.

The onus is on John Ferguson to find some help for this team, he let Brian Leetch get away and has had problems working the salary cap. While the Leafs have suffered a fair amount of injuries to key players of late, there is no doubt that the team lacks depth in the line up. If the Leafs hope to get back into the race for a playoff spot, Ferguson will have to spend the Olympic break trying to crunch his numbers and make some trades.

The fans have already seen on General Manager sent to the unemployment lines this year, one wonders if they'll be howling for a second should the Leafs not turn things around?

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