December 29, 2010
Leafs and Raptors look forward to 2011
As fans, we have to hope that there is some kind of improvement over the first 3 months of the season. We are patient and loyal to our Leafs, and Leaf nation is strong and numerous; however, with that first round pick ready to go to Boston for a second straight June, a final standings position of 18-20 would ease some pain.
We can’t blame the boys for last night’s loss (4-3) to Carolina as Mother Nature played her role in ensuring we ran out of gas (and at 1.25/litre) that meant at about the 10 minute mark of the third. Good effort, but no juice in the end to keep up with the ‘Canes. There was lots of energy up until that point, and that is a good sign. With a better game by Gus, there was a chance for 2 points last night.
Mike Brown is due back soon, and this should bump Naz back to the Marlies as Mitchell has been playing half decently the last few games. Gus needs to become more consistent, and this is why these games are so important for him, and his future with the Blue and White.
Our best line all season has been Grabo/Kuly/Mac – this is both good and bad. It’s good because they are helping to add goals to the score sheet, and it’s bad because it means that Kessel in not on the best line. Kessel has been starting to get warm lately, however, and that is always a good indication that he’s about to embark on a 10 goals in 12 games type of streak. Man could he ever use a guy like Richards as his centre - but that is not gunna happen!
As a die-hard Leaf fan, but a realistic one, I can see them playing at a .500 pace for the last of 2011. Will this be enough to get them out of the bottom 10 come June? We can only hope! With the calendar about to flip on 2010, my resolution is to stop blogging about the trade that brought Kessel to Toronto. Instead, I will write about how, and if, this team can make us proud.
And just a quick final note about the impending trade deadline, please let’s not get carried away with trade rumours and crazy scenarios for our buds! Burke is probably not holding too many guys back in trade offers, but really, other than maybe Giggy or Beauchemin – who can we trade? No, there will not be buyers for Komi (not with $5M and 3 more years still left) - besides, who wants a big tough D man who forgot how to hit/fight/skate/pass on his flight from Montreal to Toronto 2 summers ago?
Well, as a young group with some talent and a whole lot of energy and athleticism, these guys look like they might be ready to commit to some defence! Last night in Dallas, on the second of a back to back, they kept the Mavs to a measly 76 points. Without Bargnani/Evans/Weems/Calderon and with Bayless leaving early with an ankle sprain, the Raps got huge games by rookie Ed Davis and Linus Kleiza.
The remarkable aspect of the game was that Dallas was kept to such a low score at home. Yes, Dirk was out and they were playing the second of a back to back like the Raps, but they are the veteran team that is near the top of the Western Conference standings, not a bunch of “young onezz” trying to build some confidence for future years.
And, just when you think this Raptor team will (should) get their asses handed to them, they come up with that effort. It was a thing of beauty for us Raptor fans and just one of those games for the Mavs.
Somehow I just think that what the Raptors need to do moving forward in 2011 is work on nothing but defence. Triano has to somehow manage to instil a culture of hard work on their side of centre. The ability to get to loose balls, deflect passes, run off the opposition’s 3 pointer shooters and rebound, is not only a function of young, athletic legs, but also a good scheme implemented by the coach.
Unlike the Leafs, the Raptors have 2 picks in this year’s draft. Therefore, each loss isn’t as painful as it is with their ACC roomies. With a young group of guys and first round picks added to the still available CB4 trade exception; Colangelo can get this team back on track on time for the 2011 season. Remember, we play in the East – and if you can get to the .500 mark, you’re in the playoffs.
Happy New Year’s all.
Go Toronto Go!