December 25, 2010
Did Leafs get ahead of themselves?
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Prior to the Christmas break, coach Ron Wilson delved into some reasons how his team’s promising start turned into such a pickle entering the new year.
“We thought after the first four games and the type of training camp we had (that things were fine),” Wilson said of the undefeated start. “Everyone gets fooled by that a little bit.
“But I knew of the four wins, we should have lost two. You start 4-0 and everyone has you on a parade route and when you have a young team, they all believe that hype, too. We’re somewhere in between. We just have to find our way and get some guys going. They’ve been in mighty slumps for awhile.”
Wilson is not immune to the abuse he has been getting during this rough patch.
“It’s disappointing and frustrating. I’m like a lot of guys, I’ve been competing in what I do my whole life. Whether I’m playing tic-tac-toe with my granddaughter, it kills me to let her win. She’s only four, but the only way she’s going to learn is to lose a game or two.”
Mitch OK with switch
It remains to be seen if centre John Mitchell gets another try on the second power-play unit after he scored his first goal of the season on Monday against the Atlanta Thrashers.
“I’m going to try and chip in any way I can, so if I’m going to get power play time, I have to make the best of it,” Mitchell said. “Get out there, try to get to the front of the net, screen the goalie and keep him deep in his crease. I can be buzzing around the net and picking up some rebounds.”
Utilizing Mitchell means Wilson can keep Kris Versteeg on the point, where the slumping forward is getting more chances,
“Our power play opportunities have happened when Steeger’s been on the point,” Wilson said.
“The first (unit) wasn’t working and Mitchy was the logical guy to step up. He has some skill and I thought he was playing hard, so I rewarded him with a little power-play time. I thought he played well, skated hard, got in on his forechecks.”
Former Toronto coach Pat Quinn told Leafs TV that a comparison could be made between Nazem Kadri’s learning curve and that of Tomas Kaberle in 1998-99, Quinn’s first season with the Leafs. Kaberle, who just recorded his 500th point, spent about a quarter of that rookie season in the press box. Kadri is hoping to get out Sunday for the game in New Jersey.
“We’re not in the same position as Pat’s team,” Wilson said. “He had a very veteran team, a grizzly team. We’re a pretty young team. (Kadri) has to take these moments when he isn’t in the game to his advantage, to get stronger and faster ... sitting and watching the games from above and then putting the lessons to use.”
Four score for Grabo
Clarke MacArthur says linemate Mikhail Grabovski’s output of four goals in his past four games can be traced to a stronger work ethic as he gets into his fifth NHL season.
“He’s playing as best as he’s probably ever played right now,” MacArthur said. “It’s because he works so hard every day here at the rink. You watch him and I think it just flows over to the game. You can’t just turn it on during a game, it’s too good of a league now. He’s just in such good shape now that it helps him find holes and get through openings.”
Grabovski will go for a Leaf season-high fifth consecutive game with a goal on Sunday.
“I’m playing on a great line and maybe getting a little more ice time than last year,” Grabovski said. “I had good practice (habits) in the summer and I was ready for the regular season.”