[Editor's note: For some bottom-of-the-standings fun, I asked PPP at Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets to give us a preview of tonight's game from the Leafs fan perspective. His is below, while he accepted my rambling over there.]
Hi, I'm PPP. You might know me from SBN's Maple Leafs site Pension Plan Puppets or possibly from the Battle of Ontario where I moonlight as a senators antagonist. Dominik asked to give you guys a preview of tonight's game and it's not good for the Leafs. Which means that it's really good for the Leafs! Confused? You won't be for long.
You initial confusion is probably because the 'rebuilding' on Long Island never seems to end. [Editor's note: Is that what Milbury was doing?] In Toronto, however, after putting together almost a decade of good teams having to return to the not-so heydays of the '80s is a pain [Editor: Viva Allan Bester!]. The losing this year (9 in the last 11 games) is at least partially acceptable because there are (allegedly) some reasons for optimism.
Hope? We got it
Sure, he never played backup goalie but the man has won a Stanley Cup and brings a pretty impressive resume to the job. His contract isn't quite as long as Rick DiPietro's but he'll be given the rest of this season and five more to put his mark on the franchise and hopefully deliver a Stanley Cup.
This is the kid that your GM wisely decided to allow play in The Centre of the Universe where his genius would be properly appreciated. Luckily for you guys, you won't have to watch him tonight since Ovechkin broke him on Saturday night but you still have about 20 years of regretting that trade to come [Editor: 20 years, huh? Hope he doesn't go BEU-keboom]. It'll be like us with Roberto Luongo except we won't let Mad Mike trade him for peanuts. [Editor: Unless Burkie runs into cap problems. I'm sure he won't though ... not him, never.]
Speaking of trades in which the Silver Fox Cliff Fletcher fleeced an opposing GM, the Leafs managed to pick up one of the year's hottest rookies and pineapple enthusiast.
There were questions asked before the season whether the Big Kazakh could hold his own without that Swedish Free Agent but those seemed to have been answered: Antro is awesome enough on his own. Now the question is whether he sticks around or Burke peddles him to the highest bidder. About that Josh Bailey kid you mentioned...
What's Not Good
A player that looked like he might be one of the Leafs most valuable trading chips before the season started is playing worse than mediocre. Does that mean that you'll see another 197-foot goal tonight? I cannot guarantee that you won't considering how terrible the ACC ice can be but I wouldn't bank on it. [Editor: We'll accept all charity at this point. Even from Vesa "Bester" Toskala.]
This could be a function of the personnel as opposed to the system but being ranked 27th at 77% won't help you win those tight games. If the Leafs weren't the fourth least penalized team in the league they probably wouldn't have won a game this year.
Coach Ron has brought a vastly different atmosphere to the team. They are an up-tempo pressing team that never stops working (although in the last couple of games there have been issues) and is accountable for their actions (see: the benching of Tomas Kaberle). It's going to be a long year, especially now that Hagman and Schenn are out for a couple of weeks but if the rebuilding plan stays on schedule we can deal with the losses. Now, if we're still talking about rebuilding in 2 decades there might be problems.