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Ex-Leaf Jonas Gustavsson slowly trying to rebuild his career in Motown

It’s not unusual (somewhat sadly) when individual athletes become lightning rods in Toronto.  Not because they’re bad guys, arrogant jerks or otherwise unsavoury characters—simply that they don’t play as well as we flawless sports fans think they should. 

This of course is especially so when it comes to the Maple Leafs. Not to unfairly impugn all Leaf fans (none of us is close to perfect), but so many are engaged in “group think” at times that it becomes easy to become dismissive of a player because of our perceptions of their on-ice performance. Before long, it becomes a “movement”, and Leaf fans far and wide buy into the presumption of “lousiness” and there is virtually no way for that player to redeem himself in the eyes of those fans.

Larry Murphy was a pretty good defenseman, eh, (elected ultimately to the Hall-of-Fame) but he was chastised regularly here.  And it wasn’t just a few isolated boo-birds in the cheap seats at Maple Leaf Gardens.  It was more widespread than that.  (A few boos would have been fine.) Bryan McCabe was actually voted an end-of-season All-Star one year during his time under Pat Quinn  with the Leafs and selected for Canada’s World Cup Team in 2004 (acquiring McCabe, now that was a great trade) but was eventually run out of town on a rail, after years of listening to all the reasons why he wasn’t good enough, though he was an indispensable part of two “final four” teams. 

Brett Ledba (who played serious minutes in Detroit while helping the Red Wings win a Cup) is still discussed unfavourably in these parts, though I’m not sure what indiscretion caused him to be the vehicle for so much discontent. Luke Schenn, all of 23 now, saw the back of our hand after four seasons.  Many speak of him as though he plays the game with two left feet, yet for all his supposed flaws he is a plus 5 with the Flyers while playing more than 20 minutes a night—and that’s a team that hasn’t hit its stride yet.  Heck Cody Franson of our suddenly surging Leafs was on the same “track” of fan discontent until his recent play.  But let’s not kids ourselves, that’s where that 'fan bus' was going for Franson, too.

When it comes to goaltenders, I’m not sure we take a back seat to Vancouver when it comes to eating them up and spitting them out.  Forget our history, we all know the names in recent years that weren’t good enough for us:  Raycroft, Giguere, and Toskala come to mind without batting an eye.

When it comes to Jonas Gustavsson, the man with the great nickname (“The Monster”), we proved yet again how quickly our love can turn to venom.  Here is a young man who freely chose to come to Toronto (yes, for the money, no doubt—isn’t that why virtually all athletes go anywhere these days?), but also lured by the opportunity that seemed to be in front of him to get immediate playing time in the best league in the world, after standing his own Swedish Elite League somewhat on its head in his time there.

We were excited that this big, athletic goalie came here, because we needed goaltending badly and our then GM supposedly out-foxed Gustavsson’s other (and there were quite a few, by all accounts) suitors to get the big Swede’s name on the dotted line.

In any event, we all know that Gustavsson’s time here was, at best, star-crossed.  There was the early heart ailment, which would be a setback for anyone, no matter how ‘routine’ it was made to sound.  There were some nice games and some less solid outings.  Gus was even given credit just a year ago (before the wheels fell off for the entire team) by our former GM for “saving our bacon” and keeping the team in the playoff hunt during Reimer’s prolonged absence.

Yet, Gustavsson was found wanting by so many fans, who perhaps thought we were getting polished, modern-day  versions Glenn Hall, Bernie Parent or Ken Dryden from the get-go. 

That some combination of health issues, injuries, his own frailties, Francois Allaire, meddling assistant coaches and a lack of confidence shown by our then Head coach made him essentially valueless by the end of his “run” here in Toronto was, in hockey terms, rather sad.  In terms of how to “develop players” with potential—so they at least become assets with value, it was an unforgiveable organization disaster, in my view. It wasn't all on Gustavsson.  No way.

The Leafs did a horrible job of developing and building up a skilled asset—a goalie with size, athleticism and agility, not to mention a previously top-notch reputation.  If you listen to what those who saw him in Sweden have said, we turned him into something they could not even recognize: a jumble of nerves, a goalie with next to no confidence—a guy caught between his own instincts and some notion of “how” an Allaire goaltender should play. 

From a Leaf standpoint, forget that they lost what might have been a good goaltender.  They lost any value that should have been built up in Gustavsson.

For the goalie himself, it was even worse—he seemingly no future at the NHL level.

So I sense I was one of the few (I’m not alone, I realize, but we’re in a distinct minority, I sense) who, when we all saw this past summer that Gustavsson signed on as a UFA with the Red Wings, was happy for him. To me, Gustavsson had always presented as a pretty shy guy, someone who was doing his best and hit a few brick walls—not all of his own doing—here in Toronto.  I had always hoped, as I often wrote during his time with the Leafs, that he would just be allowed to play the way he wanted to play, without so much input from others.  It seemed that he stopped playing the position naturally.  He never really got that chance, never really had the opportunity to play a run of 10 or 12 games in a row where he knew, no matter what, he would be back in there the next night.  That’s often how goalies can build their confidence.  It’s hard to do when you are afraid that every shot you let in that’s a “bad goal” may see you back on the bench for a lengthy period of time.

When he signed in Detroit, there was the expected snickering that he would be protected because Detroit has a better system, as in, “any goalie can play well there”. Poor guy can’t win.  (Perhaps he should have signed with another team like the Leafs have been in recent years, with not much of a focus on checking or defense, where goalies were the easiest targets when they lost.)

So how have things gone for our man Gus in Motown?  Well, nothing to write home about so far.  We all know the lockout has created a crazy, shortened and very rushed season.  All kinds of NHL’ers are walking wounded with an assortment of ailments.  We’ll never be able to prove that the lack of a proper training camp and exhibition season is the cause, but you have to believe that is a huge issue for many players.  For Gustavsson, groin issues, always the bane of a goalie’s perilous existence, have been a persistent problem already this season.

He did get into a couple of games in relief, but he did not get a start, I don’t believe, until this past Thursday night on the road in San Jose.  Interestingly, with a couple of minor-leaguers nipping at his heels for playing time and knowing that a bad outing might be his real ‘shot’ last in Detroit, he led the Wings to a 2-1victory.  He stopped 25 of 26 shots and all three shootout attempts. (I’m sure his critics will pull out charts saying the shots were from fourth-liners, taken from parts of the ice where it’s easy to stop shots, etc..  Whatever.  His teammates were thrilled, and so was his coach, so that’s rather more telling to me than a shooting chart or cynical 'group think' assessments…)

I’m hardly going to pronounce Gustavsson “back” or suggest he will now ride the crest of a wave.  All kinds of goaltenders who I’ve never heard of before (or since) have had one-off great games at the NHL level, or a string of nice games, before falling back into what is more their individual “norm”.  I have no clue what Gustavsson will do next.

I’m just happy to see a guy who did nothing but his best for the Leaf organization—and who I feel was unduly harangued here—get another opportunity at the NHL level.  He may get hurt again tomorrow, or not win another game this season.

But regardless, for one night, at least he showed he is indeed a capable NHL goaltender.  And maybe if the Maple Leaf organization—and we fans—had had more realistic expectations when he first signed here, and provided him with the kind of support that players sometimes need to feel welcomed and appreciated (and developed), the story might have been different here in Toronto.

Few others may care, but I wish him well.


  1. Some of the guys you mentioned above were definetly given a raw shake here in Toronto. Larry Murphy espicially since he went on to play a big role in 2 cups in Detroit. MCCabe was the author of his own demise. If I remember correctly he was a huge reason Toronto lost a playoff series to Philly. In the pivotal game 5 I believe he was a minus 5 and just dreadful. It was a game he never recovered from and his career ended in Florida a couple of years later. I also think his refusal to take a trade hurt him in a lot of ways. Same with Lebda, after he was traded he couldn't even crack Nashville's lineup and just a year later wasn't even in the NHL.

    Don't get me started on Schenn. I was and am still a huge fan and think he was badly treated here in TO. Gustafsson never got off the ground here. His medical set backs derailed him and he never seemed to get back on the tracks.

    The flip side of all this is the fact the crowd can also lionize a guy. All you have to do is look back at Gilmour and Clark. It now seems that Kadri is on the same path.

    The thing is though I am not at all sure this doesn't happen in any big passionate market. I remember Detroit chasing goalies of there as well. Who can forget the way they treated Joeseph? Going back even futher I remember Tim Cheveldae being roasted in Detroit. It happens in all big markets and I don't think Toronto is unique or even the worst place. Montreal can be bad, New York is not good (even worse when it comes to baseball) and Philly could be the worst of them all. After all we did get JVR for Schenn and as I recall there was a signifigant portion of thier fan base who felt the same way about him as some do about Schenn. Its the price you pay to play in the biggest cities on the brightest stage. Some explode into stardom and legend others just burn up. Rightly or wrongly thats just the way it is.

    I don't begrudge a guy going somewhere else and starting over. When they leave Toronto, they are no longer my concern and I wish nothing but the best for them. For whatever reason, things didn't work out for the "Monster" here in TO but I hope he is very succesful in Detriot just as long as he doesn't beat in the playoffs.

  2. I agree, Willbur, that are are a number of tough markets out there for athletes to play in, including, as you cite, New York and Philly. (And Montreal and Vancouver in hockey, of course.)

    Just a shame Monster never got fully untracked here. Maybe he can somewhere else. We'll see.

  3. When I first saw Gustavsson play I really liked him and thought we had caught a good one. He was the kind of goalie I like. A goalie that actually moves to make a save, athletic. The big body also helped.

    In an earlier post I mentioned coaches trying to change the players they have instead of molding what they are. Isn't that what "coach" means?, to help and shape a player or person? So I believe that Allaire "ruined" Jonas, trying to change him into a goalie who blocks instead of makes saves. Sort of what started to happen to Kadri when he was moved to the wing.

    As for goalies, I think (hope) the age of the true butterfly goalie is going to end. It's just boring to watch and seems like anyone with their angles down can be a goalie, just kneel and hope for the puck to hit your XXL equipment.

    If we look at the league the best goaltenders are not true butterfly guys, but a mix of positioning and going after pucks to stop. In last nights Wings game braodcasters called a "huge save" from Giguere on Zetterberg. No. Giguere was kneeling, waiting motionless and Zetterberg hit him in the shoulder with the puck. Are we going to see sumo wrestlers in goal now because they take up a lot of net?

  4. If you are wondering why Lebda was treated as such in Toronto, the Leafs once won 9-3 against Atlanta, an absolute blowout, and our man Lebda defied all laws of nature and was a minus 3 on the night. Does that answer your question?

  5. Well said, portuguese leaf. I recall your earlier comments.

    Isn't it ironic? When a goalie makes a save, the TV analysts usually say the goalie was in great position (i.e. the puck hit the goalie). When shots sneak in over their shoulder, the claim is the goalie went down too soon. Heck, nowadays, the goalie usually goes down "too soon" and the only difference is when the puck hits - or misses - him. They all look pretty much the same.

    Thanks portuguese leaf.

  6. To me, cristovano, one game should never, ever, be the reason a person is treated with disrespect.

  7. Michael,

    Since I am a fan without faults of my own. I am not sure where your train of thought is on this one. I am of course, just having a little fun here. Nowhere in the fan playbook does it say anything about being realistic or managing expectations. And for the most part we don't. Sports is an emotional, heat of the moment business. The passion and excitement of the game draws a certain type of person. Only in the realm of sports fans, are people who would pay $300 to wear clothing with someone elses name on the back. I think the teams can do a better job of managing those expectations as well. In Gustavssons case specifically, Burke never shut up about how great he is/was. Interview after interview about how he is the best goalie in the world. The nonstop hype of these players starts the day they are drafted. From the team hyping him, to the local media writing stories. Heck, these guys call the players moms to get the scoop on a current situation. It goes on and on. In the case of the team, I get that they have other motivations at play before honesty, but these guys are the experts. Experts that fans invest a great deal of time, money, and trust in. Solely, so that we can watch a flawless victory on the field of play, and thereby becoming winners in some small measure ourselves. Its also pretty easy to know that another development path was the right one when a player flames out for your team. Kind of an any option was better sort of thing.

    Some of this is also perspective when watching the broadcast itself. There are no bigger homers in the world than a broadcast team being paid by the club. From the best saves and plays ever, to guys who could do no wrong. This part is about perspective, and gullibility. For me, just because Bowen and Millen say something is so, doesn't necessarily make it true. I almost always watch the games without the laughtrack commentary. Solely, because it is so biased, it makes me angry. Everyone needs to remember they are not broadcasters, or journalists, they are team employees.

    I have some strong opinions on players. I am not shy about that, I will give you my opinion if you ask. I don't boo or jeer players in any sport, at any time. There was never a conscious decision to behave this way. Just something I have never done, and am too old to bother with now. Some of my opinions on players may seem harsh, if you knew me personally, you would understand that there is never a malicious thought in mind. Even if I declare my hatred for a player, I don't really hate them, I just hate that they are on my team, so to speak. I would wish Kessel the very best of luck when Nonis trades him. It is my preference that it be soon, as the player he is, is the player he will be.

  8. "He stopped 25 of 26 shots and all three shootout attempts. (I’m sure his critics will pull out charts saying the shots were from fourth-liners, taken from parts of the ice where it’s easy to stop shots, etc.. Whatever. His teammates were thrilled, and so was his coach, so that’s rather more telling to me than a shooting chart or cynical 'group think' assessments…)"

    You're better than this. Don't join the chorus of babies that are afraid to think about the game beyond "well, Leafs won so everything's perfect".

    Gustavsson was bad in Toronto. Full stop. Some of that can definitely be aatributed to bad luck with his health, some to Brian Burke's incompetence in thrusting him into a situation over his head with Vesa Toskala (no doubt another Leaf that was unfairly maligned. where is he now by the way?) as support, but ultimately he just wasn't good enough and 6.5 periods of not playing awful in Detroit won't change that.

    As for his one good game against San Jose, even the worst goalie will have a good game. In the grand scheme of things it won't make a difference. And for the record, Allaire didn't ruin Goose - he still works with the Leafs' goalies especially Scrivens as well as Craig Anderson and Roberto Luongo - Goose just wasn't good enough.

    That's true of the vast majority of the list of players whose booing you lament. McCabe was booed when he was a bad hockey player not when he was a key player. He was quickly out of the league because he was on the downslope of his career.

    Brett Lebda is out of the NHL for a reason and it's not because Leafs fans were mean and booed him. It's because he's not good at hockey.

    Luke Schenn is playing 20 minutes a night in Philadelphia because they don't have any choice. He wasn't living up to his draft pedigree or his contract. He's doing fine because he's paired with Kimmo Timonen, same as when he was paired with Tomas Kaberle.

    It's not like these are good players that were being booed when they were playing well.

  9. I do believe that Gustavsson was a victim of the hype that was bestowed on him. In hindsight, I believe he wished the "Monster" tag had never happened. But it wasn't his fault. He didn't call himself Monster. He didn't show up for a North American tour telling NHL franchises to drop to their knees and be awed at his presence. The NHL general managers did that all by themselves. He remained a fairly quiet, humble young player through the recruitment process.

    I can't help but think of that (monstrous) offensive lineman from Oakville some twenty years ago. Tony Mandarich, billed as the second coming of Christ, or at the very least the best offensive tackle ever. And he played up the hype himself. Playing to the media, self-proclaimed greatness before he ever set foot on a professional football field. Mandarich deserved the derision he received after he bombed. His hype was self-inflicted.

    Gustavsson cannot be blamed for the label that others put on him. We've discussed Wilson's mismanagement of him last year, chipping away his confidence every time something went wrong. Goalies simply have to be treated differently, even at the highest level. The Leafs failed him in a big way.

    I've checked from time to time this year on the Red Wings box score to see if he got a chance to play. Unfortunately it hasn't been often at all. I too am happy to see that he is still in the league, and I do hope that he gets his chance to shine some day.

  10. Well crafted Jim, thank you. Everyone (fans, broadcasters, media folks, bloggers) are all invested in some way. Is one "opinion" better than another?

    That's why I try to offer something a little different here at VLM. I'll express my views, but always recognize there are a lot of differing views out there. Mine is but one.

  11. Hi Julian (PPP). You know I always respect your views, though it doesn't sound as though you are respecting mine on this one.

    I always try to provide a forum for differing views, as I just mentioned to Jim. I don't think I'm a "crybaby", as you suggest. I've been observing this team (and in fact covered them as a reporter many years ago, in the '70s) since the late '50s. I don't feel I particularly have to cover up for them. If I don't like something, I'll say it. But I try to step back and provide perspective most of the time. I'm hardly a "join the crowd" individual, though you suggest I am somehow.

    But I've also worked with enough professional hockey coaches and athletes on a one-on-one basis as part of my "real" job that I'd like to think I have a bit of insight into that world.

    So when I state a view, it's not "just" coming from mere observation as a "fan", though that of course is a significant part of the perspective I try to provide here.

    We can agree to disagree. Personally, I would not use a frail Luongo as my measuring stick for Allaire's success as a goalie coach. I;m sure Allaire is a great coach. But not for all goalies.

    I said clearly in my piece that there are all kinds of goalies that have one-off big games.

    McCabe was not a "bad hockey play" in my view. In fact, he was good enough in his prime to play more than 30 minutes a night in key playoff games. Booing a guy struggling at the end of his career makes no sense for me.

    Ledba? Good enough to help Detroit win a Cup. Not good enough here. It happens. No need to vilify a guy for that.

    Schenn is flawed but working to improve. He didn't draft himself 5th overall, or ask to be developed poorly.

    I won't extend the debate, Julian. I'll just say we look at some things differently. And that should be fine between people who respect one another.

  12. You hit the nail on the head, Pete. Gus did his best. He didn't bring the attention on to himself. (The football reference you make is one I remember well...) He had some good games here and I hope he gets a shot, whether in Detroit or elsewhere. Expectations can be cruel.

  13. MIchael,

    I think that the point we are missing today is that it is up to both the player and the management team to work together towards a successful outcome. The ability of both parties to achieve this is very important. Is Allaire a good goalie coach? For some yes, he is. For others, it is clear that he is not. It is up to the team primarily, in my opinion, to draft, trade and develop players into specific situations so that they can achieve their maximum potential in the game. The Leafs have done an awful job of this in my opinion. The list is huge here. Burke keeping Wilson, the yo-yo with prospects. Forcing Schenn into an NHL role when he wasn't ready, solely because you have no one else who is even remotely competent. Then shuffling him out of town when he doesn't prosper. Giving Liles and Komisarek huge contracts, and then putting them in the pressbox. Its miscalculation after miscalculation in Toronto. It never seems to end. If the organization doesn't put players in the correct scenario, it makes it very difficult for the player to become all he can.

    As a rule I don't feel the need to defend your opinions Michael. I would like to point out to Julian(PPP) that group think on the part of the fans is not a good thing. It doesn't matter whether you are booing Larry Murphy or Bryan McCabe. In one case the fan base was unequivocally wrong, and in the other, running the guy out of town, seemed to be prescient or a foretelling of things to come for him. Michael is doing exactly what he has always said he would do. Commenting on the team today with a trend to the positive, along with memories of days gone by. To complain that Michael is doing what he sought out to do, is a bit below the belt on your part. Even though I read both sites, I read them for different reasons, and with different outcomes. If I need to reinforce a view I have on the current state of affairs, PPP is where I turn for more in depth analysis. I personally read VLM because it is enjoyable. Too often lately sports discussions are very concerned with advanced metrics. As someone who has had to endure statistical analysis as part of my career. I avoid this at all costs. Even when you are good at math, it is rarely an enjoyable endeavour. The team is supposed to be something I enjoy, regression analysis is not necessary to tell me that the team is more likely to win when Kessel scores. Some fans are very interested in the correlations between variables, and proving that there is a correlation to begin with. I am fine with that, it just isn't the point of sports, in my opinion.

    My point is that it sometimes seems that the only reason to build a player up, is so that we can inevitably tear him down . Its the nature of the beast, and I don't get the feeling that it is going to change. Perhaps all fans should calm down, myself included. Maybe even go outside once and a while and try for some perspective. Whether or not the Leafs win or lose, really seems rather insignificant when compared to other things.

  14. Thank you for a reasoned perspective Jim, though as you say, hopefully people don't generally feel the need to "defend" me here at VLM. My site (which is "me") doesn't try to pretend to be what it's not. I don't do stats. I'm not funny. I don't do research. I mostly enjoy writing about my memories of yesteryear.

    When it comes to the current team, I try to do what you mentioned- provide the perspective of a long-time observer, and infuse hopeful possibilities along the way. I assume readers go elsewhere, as you said, for other "types" of Leaf analysis.

    Thanks Jim.

  15. Hi Michael,
    that skinny Swede had his moments, but Wilson's system (such as it was, simply was not kind to goalies who were young and/or had health problems), which included Gustavsson, Reimer and Giguere.

    Leafs fans always need to have a whipping boy. It looks like Franson may have ducked it, and surely Komisarek would be hearing the boos if he was back on the ice.

    In that vein, the Leafs might consider not handing out the no. 8 again any time soon. the list of recent wearers have all-too often fit in the Komisarek mould. It's a scary (or mostly forgettable) list:

    Ken Baumgartner (92)
    Todd Warriner (95-00)
    Dmitri Khristich (00-01)
    Aki Berg (01-04,06)
    Carlo Colaiacovo(07-09)
    Komisarek (09-present)

    Best Leaf in No. 8? Ron Ellis apparently wore 8 in the early part of his Leaf career. (64-68)
    others on the mostly forgettable list?

    Mike Allison (87, 88)
    Tim Armstrong (89)
    Don Ashby (79)
    Rich Costello (86)
    Jim Dorey (69-72)
    Gerry Ehman (64)
    Alex Faulkner (62)
    Chris Govedaris (94)
    Greg Hotham (81, 82)
    Todd Hawkins (92)
    Pierre Jarry (72, 73, 74)
    Larry Keenan (62)
    Les Kozak (62)
    John MacMillan (63, 64)
    Paul Masnick (58)
    Bob McGill (93)
    Sean McKenna (88, 89)
    Richard Mulhern (80)
    Walt Poddubny (83, 84, 85, 86)
    Rob Ramage (90, 91)
    Larry Regan (59, 60, 61)
    Rocky Saganiuk (79, 80)
    Brit Selby (65)
    Sid Smith (51-58)
    Jack Valiquette (75, 76, 77, 78)
    Gary Yaremchuk (82)

    Based on this site

    There may be some old timey greats not part of the list, but
    let's consider just "retiring" 8 for a while.


  16. That post took some work! Thanks Anon (Paul).

    Allow me some comments- as I was around for a lot of those great names. Sid Smith was a well-regarded Leaf who went on to help, if I'm not mistaken, the Senior "A" Whitby Dunlops capture the World Championships in like 1958.

    Brit Selby I've written about here- a former Rookie of the Year. Played on two separate occasions with the blue and white.

    Les Kozak I havs also written about. I remember the only NHL goal he ever scored in the early '60s. Game against the Red Wings.

    Gerry Ehman was an old favourite of mine- helped the Leafs in a couple of their Cup years as a plugger/checker/grinder who could score a bit, then had some nice offensive years for Oakland in expansion.

    Great old names, thanks for that. And yes, Ellis wore 11 first, then 8, then 6.

    John MacMillan I have also talked about. I recall that he was on at least one Leaf Cup team. (He's in the team photo I have from the '62 Cup teams) and later almost helped the Red Wings upset the Leafs in the finals in '64, I think it was.

    Alex Faulkner was huge for the Wings in the '63 finals against the Leafs.

  17. I'll tell you one thing I'm not looking forward to (with respect to Gustavsson) is a realignment return of Detroit to the same division as Toronto... I think I would actually love it, if it wasn't for the thought of a highly confident and healed "Monster" to face throughout the years and we wonder what it could have been like, if we could have kept "Bernie Parent" - but blew it again.

    Other than future Leaf games, I hope nothing but the best for the lanky Swede... I hope he has a nice career and comes to be appreciated by those who would so easily discard the young man. I guess some of us just care about people as much as the game they play (maybe even a little bit more)... and do I love the game!

    I cringe whenever I hear fans boo-ing any of our own players... seems like the mentality it took years to avoid on my softball teams, until I found a group of like-minded guys - who were all hyper-responsible and harder on themselves than anyone else could be - yet would seek to find the 'good' in every play... commenting on someone's hustle or whatever we observed.

    I remember my favourite game on that team came when we won our league and moved up to the next echelon of divisions the next year... we were playing the champs of the division above us and had lost some key players ourselves... we were down 28-0 by the bottom of the 4th inning. We got so busy laughing at ourselves, we loosened up and started to enjoy anything that went well. The other guys... not so much. We ended up scoring more runs against them than any team that season and managed to lose by only 3 runs (at 31-28 by the end of the game). What a memorable experience... It was a lot more fun to experience that, than the alternative that we sometimes provide to our Maple Leaf... perhaps some Leaf fans will consider trying to find something positive to praise at the games rather than something easy to mock (for all our sakes - but especially the guys who are out there bleeding for our enjoyment).

  18. Thank you, InTimeFor62. You "get" what I was trying to write about today.

    I was never, as seemed to be suggested above, molly-coddling our players (e.g. Gustavsson and Lebda, McCabe, etc.) and not being honest enough in my assessment of them. I saw them all play, too. They were imperfect players. Big deal.

    I'm as hard on highly-paid professional athletes as anyone. People can go back and read my posts during the lockout. If professional athletes say or do dumb things, they should be called to account like any other "public" figure.

    But to join a "pack" and spend years cracking wise about guys who played here because they had bad games or bad seasons but were otherwise solid citizens (like Gus), c'mon. Really? That's necessary, even for a fan?

    Enjoy the games. Support "your team". Yell and scream and trade everyone in your fantasy leagues. And if there is fair "performance criticism" that fans want to share publicly, by all means that's fine. These guys can take it.

    But on a personal level, these guys are not automatons. On the one hand we all sound so sad when a former player takes his life, as happened in the summer of 2011, and we blame the "system". But then we go back to trashing athletes mercilessly because they weren't good enough here as a player. Just seems odd to me.

    If their biggest sin is that some fans think they didn't play well enough in Toronto, then I don't know what to say. I guess fans have a bigger issue than any athlete.

  19. I never said you were a crybaby Michael. It's pretty clear in my comment that I am referring to other people as such. Disagreeing isn't disrespecting.

    So when I state a view, it's not "just" coming from mere observation as a "fan", though that of course is a significant part of the perspective I try to provide here.

    "We can agree to disagree."


    "Personally, I would not use a frail Luongo as my measuring stick for Allaire's success as a goalie coach. I;m sure Allaire is a great coach. But not for all goalies."

    Frail? The guy made it to a game 7 in the Stanley Cup final when his team scored just 8 goals in 7 games and he almost won. He won a gold medal in Vancouver in one of the most mentally taxing set of games possibly ever. He's also been a top five goalie in the NHL for the majority of his career. He seems like a decent reference for Allaire. As for whether he was the right coach for Gustavsson, suggesting he was wrong presupposes that he had some special abilities that Allaire wasn't able to tap that Goose also has yet to show for any length of time in the NHL.

    "I said clearly in my piece that there are all kinds of goalies that have one-off big games."

    Yes, and then you presented Goose's one game as if it had some value in countering the well documented and researched arguments of his critics. Can't do both.

    "McCabe was not a "bad hockey play" in my view. In fact, he was good enough in his prime to play more than 30 minutes a night in key playoff games. Booing a guy struggling at the end of his career makes no sense for me."

    Yes, in his prime he was good and he wasn't booed then. Whether you think it's best to let players that are pulling down large contracts and hindering a team's attempts to improve while simultaneously hurting the team on the ice with their play skate by on reputation is one thing. But it's not the fans' fault that McCabe had problems and deserved the boos by most generally accepted standards.

    "Ledba? Good enough to help Detroit win a Cup. Not good enough here. It happens. No need to vilify a guy for that."

    Well, he 'helped' the Wings win a Cup. He wasn't good here. Again, not sure why poor performance is being ignored. Would you prefer players not be critiqued?

    "Schenn is flawed but working to improve. He didn't draft himself 5th overall, or ask to be developed poorly."

    No, he didn't draft himself or put himself in to the lineup too soon. That is true. But he also didn't play well and made the same mistakes over and over and over again. What do you expect fans to do?

    "I won't extend the debate, Julian. I'll just say we look at some things differently. And that should be fine between people who respect one another."

    Not sure why you ask for thoughts if you are going to act so offended about an opposing viewpoint.

    And your last comment in reply to InTimeFor62 is a little ironic considering how willing you were to villify the players union during the lockout.

  20. Hi Julian, of course people are free to post here. People disagree with me regularly on various issues. I expect that. It would be pretty dull otherwise.

    That said, I sensed the tone of your comment was pretty harsh, and I'm just being honest. If you say that is not the case and not your intent, then fine. I am only "offended" if I sense that is the aim of a post directed at me personally.

    We can disagree on players. We all see things differently. I know from people I speak with that Lebda did help Detroit in his time there. McCabe was an end of season All-Star here. We could argue about this stuff all day.

    My point is not that occasional booing is "out of bounds"- but picking at guys years after they are gone makes no sense to me. It's not "fun".

    I think I explained my comment about players during the lockout in my response to InTimeFor 62. I was quite clear that I spoke out during the lockout, expressing my views and they were strong at time, for sure. Some thought they were anti-player. I thought they were fair.

    If individual (often wealthy) athletes act spoiled or greedy in public forums, then they are fair game, as I alluded to above, just like any other public figure. They are seeking to "engage" and fans have a right to respond in kind.

    Fair-minded "performance criticism" has always been acceptable.

    But at some point, people let go. And that's what I was saying in my initial post. If some fans think certain players weren't "good enough" in Toronto, fine. But when people refer to them with derision years after the fact makes no sense to me. These guys were all good enough to be full-time NHL'ers so they must be pretty good at the sport.

    Not beyond fair criticism, but not worthy of derision.

  21. "If their biggest sin is that some fans think they didn't play well enough in Toronto, then I don't know what to say. I guess fans have a bigger issue than any athlete."

    When it comes to our favourite game, it seems almost all of us are frustrated wanna' be's... I doubt there are many Hall of Famer's or even NHL 'plugs' commenting on any blogs out there on the interwebs :)

    I'm sure we can have opinions on multiple areas of interest in and around the game without being hypocrites when we are trying to focus on one particular area or player. I enjoyed your interest in the young man (Jonas G) and hope for the best for all the decent guys out there who are entertaining us through our 'lives of quiet desperation'.

    I think almost everyone has heard the saying "if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all"... if anyone thinks the anonymity of a crowded arena negates the call for the application of such advice, then it only magnifies the weakness of character inherent in those who hide in such crowds (or websites) to say such things about our own players. Of course, constructive critique is fine, but ad hominem attacks in any forum are not appropriate (I am not speaking to anyone posting here, rather about hurtful, unnecessary comments that drag everyone down)... Do we think the players are unaffected? Are we the better for saying or hearing such things?

    I think not...

    I can tolerate hearing a little 'hacking' on the opponents, but prefer to focus my attention and energy upon noticing, coaxing and encouraging the best effort out of the guys we have in the Blue and White... not running them out of town.

    I wonder how many of us would be unaffected if 2-3000 people came to our jobs and chanted 'Fire (insert my name here)'... If it's not Hitler or some psychopath that we're calling out... perhaps we shouldn't!

  22. I have a lot of regard for Julian (PPP), InTimeFor62, but we seem to be looking at the world differently today. It happens. Maybe it's a misunderstanding.

    By the way, I meant to respond to your great softball story reference above. Again, you very much "got" what I've been trying to say today, perhaps clumsily. Loved the story.

    As I said earlier, I was hard on players if they spoke out during the lockout in a manner that I believed was silly. I think these guys are immensely talented and hard-working but also fabulously well-paid. To me, they are among the last who should ever (even during a silly owner-imposed lockout) whine about their professional life circumstance.

    And I was very critical of the player (whose name escapes me) who spoke about Bertuzzi and Steve Moore and made what I thought were some egregiously thoughtless comments about essentially being able to "drop a guy's IQ" by punching him in the head. I find that kind of attitude intolerable. Should I not comment on that? I think it's fair game, and that has to do with ethics and values, not, as I mentioned above, the issue of "performance criticism"- which, when properly directed, is fine in my books, too. In the case I am referring to, that player had a right to express his absurd opinion. I have the right to comment in return.

  23. I think the biggest change in the way fans relate to players is driven by money. Back in the day when salaries were comparable to what other people could make people could realte to guys having on o0ff day at the office. I mean who hasn't had one of those?

    Since the least of players started making more money in a year than most of us will make in a decade people are a lot less forgiving. When Luke Schenn was making $800,000 per year most of us could cut the guy some slack. When he started making $3,000,000 a year people wanted results right now.

    The same applies to Komisarek. If he were making 1 million a season peole would be a lot less ready to run him out of town. Rightly or wrongly for the player with the advent of the million dollar salary came all the expectations of getting paid that salary.

    People can say Lebda was a terrible player and not very good and he wasn't in his time in TO. However, in context he is still better than 99% of the population. Too bad for him he was making a large sum of money while not
    playing well. That just makes it easy for fans to turn on a guy.

    All that said, fans ultimately pay the salarys of these guys. We pay good money to attend games, buy the merchandise and the overpriced food. If somebody wants to pay $300 bucks for a ticket and then boo so be it. If a player doesn't like what is happening then the onus is him to play better and win fans over.

  24. Those are all fair points, Willbur. There is no question money has changed the way fans often approach how they relate to players.

    Your examples (e.g. Komisarek) ring true. At a million a year, we'd admire his work ethic and not be quite so vocal if he did nit play well. At 5 million it's a different level of expectation.

    My point, though, is that fans could at least let go after a guy leaves the team. There is no need to keep criticizing a guy years after the he left town.

    Thanks Willbur.

    1. That part I never understood. I mean really once they no longer wear the Blue and White why would you care about them? Wish them all the best and move on. I don't know why people invest in the failure of others. In what possible way could it affect the Maple Leafs if Gustafsson turns things around in Detroit? I for one would admire the guy for taking a bad situation here in TO and learning from it and turning it into something positive. Thats perseverance and it should be applauded.