After Tuesday’s Maple Leafs’ loss in Tampa Bay, goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère had some extremely harsh and pointed comments aimed directly at his teammates. Jiggy said, “This is a young group. We should have energy every game. If you’re tired, you’ve got to rethink what you’re doing because this is unacceptable.” You may not agree with Giguère’s comments. You may not think he should have made them publically. But his candor may have just saved the Maple Leafs’ season.
Based on his play thus far in 2010-11, the aging Giguère has been one of, if not the, premiere players for the Maple Leafs. That alone gets him the respect of his teammates. He’s won a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup (Anaheim, 2007). More respect. When J-S speaks, people listen. And they should. It could not have been easy for Giguère to speak out against his younger, far-more inexperienced mates. It goes against everything we are taught growing up.
We’re guided to support the team. Always be positive. Always compliment, never deride. All for one and one for all. But Jiggy threw that right out the window when he said, “We just weren’t ready to compete.” Wow! He called out the forwards and the coaching staff in one sentence. I love it!
Whose job is it to get a team “ready to compete” if not the coaches’? If I’m head coach Ron Wilson, or assistants Keith Acton and Tim Hunter, I’m not happy that my netminder thought it was his place to tell me I’m not doing my job. But, you know what? There’s only one player on this Leafs’ squad that could pull off that condemnation of the coaches’ and forwards’ work. It’s Giguère.
And that’s why this could be a pivotal point in the Leafs’ season. The forwards have been called out. It’s public. And it came from a respected teammate. How will a group that’s used to coasting its way through a season in front of an ACC fan-base that consists of a bunch of corporate, no-care suits respond? Will they continue to not give it all every single shift? Or will the forwards finally look in a mirror and ask themselves, “Can I work harder? Can I be better prepared?” I know if I was Phil Kessel or Tyler Bozak or Kris Versteeg, it would definitely give me cause to reflect. Jiggy’s comments could be just the tonic this team needs.
One of the chronic problems in Toronto is that players’ are rarely held accountable for anything by coaches or fans. Well, Jean-Sébastien Giguère just held twelve guys completely accountable. Let’s see if they respond.