TORONTO - Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, who must be wondering what the hell he got himself into, said his team lacks confidence — which is a major reason why they’ve won only three of the 10 games he’s coached.
But if you look at the Leafs’ last two games — an 8-0 fiasco in Boston on Monday night and a disappointing 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday — it seems that a lack of drive is a much bigger problem. It’s almost like they’re giving Carlyle and general manager Brian Burke, the big f--- you.
How else do you explain the fact the Leafs managed only 14 shots against a mediocre Islanders team at the ACC. Please don’t tell me it’s because the players are concentrating on back-checking. Coaches like Carlyle will tell you that playing responsible hockey in three zones shouldn’t take away from your attack (very much). Carlyle wants his teams to play a rough, tough, three-zone brand of hockey with an emphasis on defence. That’s great. But this Leafs team — guys like Tim Connolly, Tyler Bozak, Matthew Lombardi, Phil Kessel, etcetera — just aren’t wired to play that way. It’s like ballerinas being asked to brawl.
Some of the players look like they just don’t want to play for Carlyle. Perhaps some of them realize they won’t be back next season. The bottom line is, Burke is going to have to make major changes throughout this lineup if he expects his team to perform well under a coach like Carlyle. If Burke doesn’t acquire some truculence and belligerence, the coaching change will prove to be a disaster. As for leadership, everyone seems to be dumping on captain Dion Phaneuf for the Leafs’ recent woes. But I don’t see how one guy can make that much of a difference.
CHUVALO GETS A STATUE
Talk about an outstanding gesture.
Canadian boxing legend George Chuvalo was recently honoured in his mother’s hometown of Ljubuski, a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A statue of Chuvalo was unveiled in front of the town’s main sports complex. Chuvalo said some words in Croatian for the large crowd who showed up for the unveiling.
“I was born in Canada, I live in Canada but a piece of my heart and soul will forever remain here in this monument,” said Chuvalo, who was considered one of the toughest fighters ever to climb into the ring. In a unrelated tribute, the new Our Lady Peace Album, Curve, features a picture of a young Chuvalo on the cover. George is omnipresent these days.
I’M A CEMENT HEAD?
Hey, I appreciate all the feedback I get for my yarns, even the nasty e-mails. Especially the nasty ones. Here’s an e-mail I received this week from my buddy Lee, after I came out in support of fighting in the NHL:
“Mr. Buffery, while I enjoy your colums (sic) I have to ask is your head made of cement. what does it take for you people to come out of your caves.” Well, Lee, what would it take to get us out of our caves? How about some love and acceptance. And maybe some barbecued Woolly mammoth. As for my head being made out of cement ... that would perhaps explain the distinctive swishing noise when I nod.
WHILE I’M AT IT
* Jose Canseco challenged Shaquille O’Neal to an MMA fight last week and Shaq has accepted. Good. What steroids didn’t do, I’m sure a Shaq right hand would. And that is, take Canseco out of his misery.
*Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown was scratched from the lineup this week with a neck injury, suffered while taking a nap on the team bus. That almost ranks up there with Dustin Penner hurting his back while eating pancakes, though not quite.
WEENIE OF THE WEEK
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson for saying, after signing a five-year, $51 million deal on Wednesday: “I’m going to guarantee a Super Bowl.” Why do that? All you’re doing is putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on yourself and your teammates. That quote will be paraded out before and after every Eagles game this season.