16 April, 2006

Barbecue time in Hogtown

I come not to bury the Leafs, but to....uh....huh huh huh huh....later dude.

*ahem* Anyway.

After a season that's been a serious disappointment for the Leafs, I think it's time to burn things down and start over.

It was clear to me, watching the Leafs this season, that they'd pretty much gotten to tuning out Pat Quinn. It's time to turf him and get some new blood behind the bench. I don't know if I'd go with Chairman Mo as an option, because in my opinion the guy still needs to learn a few things that he never had the opportunity to learn when he ran things down here in the Old North State. Laviolette is off-limits. You hear me, Ferguson? OFF LIMITS. No Lavi for you! But really, anyone is a better option behind the Leafs' bench than Quinn right now.

Jeff O'Neill needs to go. Or more correctly, he needs to get some help getting his personal demons in check before he steps foot on the ice again. Jeff's a guy whose performance is directly tied to his mood...and psychologically speaking, he was hitting the emotional and mental bottom coming out of the lockout (and that contributed to his poor performance this season).

I've never been a huge fan of the guy, but I do appreciate his talent, and it kills me to see him slowly self-destructing. His struggles with the bottle are an open secret around these parts, and his DUI in early 2005 was pretty much the catalyst for his trade post-lockout. He's got a reputation for being a little surly and temperamental, which I think goes hand in hand with his drinking problem (and yes, Leafs fans, he does have a drinking problem). I'd hoped that going home and being near his family and that hometown support system would help him get back on track, but unfortunately all it seems to have done is accelerate his slow downward spiral. If he's talking retirement, then perhaps it's time for him to retire (or even take a season off) so he can focus on what's best for him and return to the ice a better man for it.

It's also time to give the kids more exposure. The Leafs did so well in their last 10 games because the kids got to get in there and show their stuff--and isn't it just amazing how much a shot of youthful enthusiasm can do for you? Let the kids play, let them have fun, and that too will reap dividends.

And what the smeg was up with not trading McCabe at the deadline after he asked for stupid money in contract negotiations? Good job, Fergie--you could have traded him and gotten something to help improve your team, but you sat on your ass and now the guy walks for nothing. Not only that, but there's a serious imbalance in the Leafs' forward lines that went blithely uncorrected for reasons that are too arcane even for me to figure out. This is where a smart trade or two would have helped a great deal.

Belfour? Dump him. In my opinion, JFJ should have unloaded him after the lockout to Columbus or somebody and either gotten a veteran goaltender with fewer miles on him or given Tellqvist a shot at the bigtime and found somebody to back the kid up. I'm betting that dudeman throws a rod or blows a seal or two come training camp. It's time to cut him loose and get a new goaltender--of course, the options are kinda limited. Cujo doesn't want to come back, and I don't know if I'd go with Andrew Raycroft--especially since the Bruins did such a wonderful job of shattering his confidence. Maybe they can give Pierre Lacroix a bag of crack to smoke, and then trade Belfour to the Avs for Theodore. Call the Habs, I bet they have some of the good stuff left.

Toronto's a team I respect highly--I even get along great with almost all of fans, who are not only passionate about their team (sometimes bordering on blind homerism) but also very knowledgeable and a lot of fun to hang out with. For all the teasing I send their way every now and then, and as obnoxious as Leafs Nation can be (believe me, even though I get on well with them I know how obnoxious Leafs fans are on all days ending in Y), I'd like to see the Leafs get their house in order for them.