Nov 24, 2009

Tuesday's Top 5: Unwelcome Leafs

When it comes to hockey, Toronto fans are in a league of their own. Never before have I seen a city that can collectively (1) praise every mundane stride or every pass a mediocre player makes, (2) hold a member of the blue-and-white hockey club to an unattainably high standard, or (3) completely ignore the very existance of a member of their beloved NHL franchise.

It is to the players that fans have relegated to the latter categories that I dedicate this blog. Readers, welcome to the unwelcome list. Any of the below mentioned five could post career years this season, yet their jersey's will generate sales far less than Wade Belak and relatively equal to Aki Berg or Alan Bester.

So without any further hesitation, please enjoy this week's top five:
(please read responsibly)


#5. Mike Van Ryn
Does anyone even remember that Van Ryn is part of this year's club? If you want to talk about unfortunate, Mike Van Ryn's your guy. After spending the better part of the previous two seasons out of action with various injuries, fans had long given up on this blue liner. Imagine the surprise when news was released that #26 wouldn't play at all this year due to season ending knee surgery - hmph.  It seems like this was the perfect merechino cherry topping on this wrecked beef cake's career. Oh yeah, I'd trade Bryan McCabe and a 4th rounder for him too.

#4. Jamal Mayers
It's not like John Pohl cast a large shadow over the #21 that Mayers had to live up to. But right out of the gate fans believed the 2008 third round pick we gave up for this 1993 third round'er was far to steep a price to pay. And can you really blame them? This Toronto native has not put up impressive numbers in any one category since his 129 PIM's with St. Louis in 05/06. Mayer's 82 PIM's last year did not add any more grit than his 16 points added secondary scoring. Actually, his 16 points was the worst among all Leafs that played an equal amount of games. Both Mathieu Brodeur and Ian Schultz went in the 2008 third round... Just Sayin'.

#3. Rickard Wallin
Wallin is openly known as the player packaged with Gustavsson to get the Monster to sign in Toronto. I would hazard to guess that less than a third of all Leaf fans could even tell me what number this fourth liner wears on his jersey. The truth is this 6th round Phoenix selection disappeared off the NHL radar in 2004, and is yet to return. Rumour has it that Rickard used to be an offensive powerhouse, which is hard to believe after he has registered just two assists in 20 games. But Burke said Wallin has reinvented himself as a defensive centre. If that's the case, his -5 rating must be wrong. I'd like to insert a comical Swedish joke here, but I honestly can't think of one.

#2. Lee Stempniak
Am I the only one that finds the trade for Stempniak a tad suspicious? Cliff Fletcher was under a week away from being replaced by Brian Burke when he sent Colaiacovo and Steen to St. Louis for Stempniak. I would like to hope that I'm not the lone Toronto hockey fan that noticed both Colaiacovo and Steen were first round selections, while Lee was a 5th round guy. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure many great hockey players have come out of the 5th round, but Stempniak? Really? Well maybe he was brought in for his chemistry with former teammate Jamal Mayers. Nope, that's not it. Funny how both Stempniak and Mayers made it on this list.

But no matter how unwanted or unwelcome the previous four are, no one can compare to our number one.

#1. Jason Blake
Last season I was able to scrape together enough to attend more Leaf games than ever before. During each and every one of these visits, several of my balcony sitting, beer drinking, green section commrades boo'ed and heckled Jason Blake's lack of skill and effort. While watching the game the other night, my companion referred to Blake's style of play as being similar to a cannon ball. He wrecklessly bombs around the rink at retardedly high speeds, and often ends each shift by crashing into a seemingly unmoveable object. Blake's career too is like a cannonball, making a big splash in a contract year to score 40 goals only to later sink to the bottom. Toronto's ever wise JFJ swoops in and "steals" Blake away for $20 million over five years. Does Toronto ever look farther than the end of their nose when scouting a player? Maybe they would have noticed Blake had never before posted more than 28 goals. In fact from 1998-2006, Blake's total NHL production had not even brought him to the 100 goal plateau. Maybe his cannonball splash would explain his inability to attain the fans incredibly high expectaions (well that and the $4 million/year price tag). But if you ask me, forget the cannonball because this sounds a lot more like a JFJ belly flop.

So there you have it, the first top five list of the 2009/2010 season. Do you have a Top 5 Unwelcome Leaf list of your own? You should send it to me, I'm always up for a good musing.

Your Buddy,


  1. For the current Leafs team, I have to admit that Blake is pretty needed, or at least shouldn't be #1. This cannonball analogy that you use is quite accurate in the sense that he breaks into the offensive zone at breakneck speed. However, I feel as though you haven't seen how effective he is once he's in there.

    You're completely correct in saying that he isn't a scorer but it can't be denied that he is the reason his line is able to set themselves up in the zone. There are only three players who are willing to burst into the offensive zone and set up a play - Kessel, Blake and Mitchell. On multiple occasions, Blake will wheel into the zone, around the net, and find Kaberle or White at the point so they can make an effective shot or smart pass. His style of play that we signed him with 4$ for has absolutely changed. I'm not one to say he comes close to earning his 4 mill but I'm saying that with the weakness of the Leafs as a team currently, I feel as though he's kind of needed.

    Also, all year I've been surprised by how physical his play is in the offensive corners. He's not worth $4 but he's worth keeping around for a bit unless Burke can seriously find some scoring.


  2. Bone, I totally agree. Blake shouldn't be number one, we should invent something even higher then one.

  3. What about Toskala?? He would be up there on my list, not ahead of Blake, but certainly ahead of Stemp...

  4. What Blake should take up postion 1 through 5, yeah he is great a streaking in off the wing, not noticing the guy in the slot or infront of the net, streaking behind the goal and throwing the puck up the middle when all of the leafs are heading into the offemsive zone just as his bad pass sends the opponets out of it.

    At least three time a game!

    Only thing I diagree with is that Toskala is not on his list.

  5. Toskala should be 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

    And I think Stempniak has been solid this season. Dogged forechecker. Goals haven't been there, but for which Leaf forward, other than Kessel, have they been?

  6. good top 5, excuse me if you don't mind but isn't this top 5 thing kind of ripping og PsycholadyHockey's Top 10 Tuesdays where I believe she already did this but in a top 10 form as opposed to your top 5. Just thought I would put that out there


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