As readers of my Toronto Maple Leafs’ posts have heard often from me, I value their insights and additions to my work. I am in debt to those who read my posts and take the time to add to the discussion sections at the bottom. I do make errors, in both thinking and writing; and, usually, in a gentle manner, I am reminded of these and corrected.
I appreciate both the insights and the conversation readers add to the posts and also the manner in which they engage each other in conversations about their team – the Maple Leafs. They have opinions but are generally gracious.
I recently asked the chief editor of The Hockey Writers if I might start sharing some of the great comments THW readers make and was encouraged to do so. As a note, I have made small editorial tweaks just for length and clarity; but, I’ve tried not to change the content of the ideas presented.
Thank you, readers. I’d like to do this again soon.
Reader One: On the Difficulty of Playing in Toronto and in Canada (Bubba)
(The Old Prof’s Note) In a recent post, reader “Bubba” noted some of the difficulties NHL players might have if they were playing in Canada. Bubba noted:
“If I were a free agent or had a no-trade clause, I would avoid Canadian teams at all costs! Only in Canada can a 24-10 team get the ridiculous amount of downright spew and venom! It is no coincidence that it is going on three decades without a Stanley Cup in Canada!
Florida has had the same amount of playoff success as the Maple Leafs, and has had some lopsided losses this year; however, the next day’s discussions don’t have a “the sky is falling” vibe to them. (Steven) Stamkos knew this and stayed away from his hometown club. There’s something very wrong when the top teams in the league are Tampa Bay, Florida, and Carolina!
If I were a player that is where I would want to play. Not in a Canadian city, where putting a fourth-liner on waivers is headline news! I am a fan of the Leafs and was alive when they won their last four (Stanley) Cups and will continue to cheer for them, but I hold out very little hope of seeing a cup in Toronto, let alone ANY other Canadian city!”
Reader Two: On the Quality of Preseason Signings (gcmgome)
(The Old Prof’s Note) One interesting thing about the Maple Leafs this season was that the team had to go shopping in the offseason to find players who helped fit the team’s needs but who could be signed to bargain contracts. The Maple Leafs’ salary-cap upper limits squeezed the team’s ability to reload. In a post recently following goalie Petr Mrazek’s solid game against the New York Islanders, regular reader gcogome wrote about this issue in reviewing Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ offseason signings.
“Five days ago I opened a comment with this statement: “Mark my words: During some game in the near future Petr Mrazek will become possessed by the ghost of Glenn Hall and demonstrate how good he can be.” Say what you will about how much of an exaggeration that was, Mrazek did make some nice saves during last night’s game. I found myself watching the shot counter hoping he could improve his stat line as well as hold on for the win. He posted a .964 save percentage.
Just imagine how we will view this past off-season’s five key signings if Mrazek can play the rest of the season as he did in the New York Islanders game? Four of those five players signed would then be home runs…that’s batting .800 to continue with the baseball metaphor.
Another takeaway from last night’s game was that the Maple Leafs to a man were the opposite of “soft and purposeless.” You cannot expect a team built with a philosophy of skill first to play lunch-pail hockey, but when you see player after player sacrificing the body to make plays, it is encouraging. This is the first time I have been convinced that this team will do what is necessary to win in the playoffs.”
Reader Three: On the Maple Leafs’ Recent Effort and Support for Muzzin and Holl’s Play (Keith Bevans)
(The Old Prof’s Note) It’s not a new thought that last season’s solid shutdown defensive pairing Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl have not had the same kind of solid season in 2021-22. In this discussion comment, Keith Bevans shares some thoughts about the quality of their play and how sometimes good defensemen can go unnoticed.
“It’s nice to see the Maple Leafs win a game with a team effort. I had my doubts and fears entering the night, but Petr Mrazek looked good. … He needs more work. Keefe looked composed on the bench. Certainly, he wasn’t overly relaxed.
The Leafs don’t look solid without Muzzin and Holl. For all the Holl haters out there, you’ll never notice the best efforts he demonstrates defensively. It’s just a fact because that’s how it works out. The best defensive plays every game are hardly noticed. The panic last-ditch energy defensive efforts look great… but that’s the last thing you want to see a defenseman do in a game. The best defense is always confident containment, orderly puck control, and comfortable puck exits from the defensive end of the playing surface.
Muzzin and Holl have both looked slightly short of shaky this season. Both players must be dealing with issues. I’d assume those issues are both physical and headspace. Regardless, the Maple Leafs are a better team when both are playing up to 75 percent of their professional potential. If both came on at an 80 percent level; well, I’d hope they do that in the playoffs. The regular season is where you really want to make all the serious ugly gaffs and mistakes.”
A Final Thank You to Readers
Thanks for sharing these insights. As I noted, I’d like to do this again soon. I value the additions readers make and I value the engaged community we have at The Hockey Writers as we cheer for our respective teams.
Thanks again for these additions.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf