Saturday, December 23, 2006

Maple Leafs flip their lids

I can certainly understand why coach Paul Maurice and the Toronto Maple Leafs are upset over what happened last night in Chicago, after a dangerous hit on Mike Peca left him with a torn MCL ligament and a fractured leg. (I'll post a video when it's made available.)

What I can't appreciate is some of the ridiculous postgame comments from some of the Leafs and their coach:
"It's tough when you see a guy [Vandermeer] who can barely play in this league take out one of the best players in this league," Toronto center Jeff O'Neill said. "I don't know if he meant to do it or not, but this sucks for us."
"The play happened on the other side of the ice, and I didn't get a good look at it," Maurice said. "I do know it was a knee-on-knee hit. Our guy will be out a long time and their guy will probably be in the minors by the time our guy gets back."
Perhaps the Leafs scouting staff didn't give him much of a briefing, but I'd expect Maurice to have a better handle on his opposition: Vandermeer has played every game this season, is a second-pairing defenceman (on a team that currently has a better record than the Leafs) who plays about 18 minutes a night for the 'Hawks. He had a strong season last year as well, with a Chicago team that was far worse, playing 76 games and recording 24 points in about 22 minutes per game.

I wonder if any reporters at last night's game thought to ask O'Neill why a "guy who can barely play in this league" is averaging nearly five more minutes a night than he is.

There's also zero chance Vandermeer will be playing in the minors this season, and my guess is, at just 26, he'll be in the NHL long after Peca and O'Neill hang them up.

Vandermeer's an up-and-coming, hard-nosed defenceman, and he's saying here that he honestly wasn't trying to injury Peca. Even if a suspension is warranted (which it may be), there's no reason to take baseless cheapshots at a player just because you've chosen to be ignorant of your opposition. (This just reeks of more arrogance from a team that has had a history of carrying themselves that way.)

As I said, I didn't particularly like the hit and it's certainly unfortunate Peca's likely out the remainder of the season, but with a reaction like this, is it any wonder the Leafs lost the game?


At 5:18 p.m., December 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to debate the relative abilities of Tucker/Vandermeer as both are capable NHL'ers... I look at Tucker as a top 6 forward/Vandermeer as a 4th/5th D-Man with some upside.

I'm not sure the following is a fair characterization however:

"ask O'Neill why a "guy who can barely play in this league" is averaging nearly five more minutes a night than he is."

Defencemen play more minutes/game then do forwards, I'm sure we all know that. 2nd pairing D-Man typically see around 18-20min/game. 1st line forwards typically see around 18-21min/game. That doesn't necessarily imply their lesser players.

Sidney Crosby is playing 20:30/night, Toronto has 2 Defencemen playing far greater minutes and 2 playing comparable minutes. Chicago 3 defencemen playing equal or greater minutes.
I'm sure Pittsburgh would be shocked to learn Crosby is of less value then Hal Gill and Duncan Keith.

Comparing the ice time of forwards and defencemen and using that to guage a players ability to play in the NHL at his position is ridiculous.

The likes of Tom Poti are not suddenly as good as elite forwards even though Tom Poti plays more then virtually any forward in the NHL.

At 5:47 p.m., December 23, 2006, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

As a guy who had Peca on his team last year, I'd take Vandermeer over him in a heartbeat. It just proves to me that Toronto players and coaches are as ill-advised about talent as Toronto management. It looked like a hip-check gone bad. Nothing more.

At 9:57 p.m., December 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It definitely was a dirty hit but the comments were made in anger after they saw an important member of the team have his season ended.

Suggesting that the comments are indicative of some sort of ignorance on the part of the Leafs is a little disingenuous. Although the potshots at the Leafs should stand you in good stead in the Toronto media.

Grabia, I bet you loved Peca in the playoffs. I understand residual bitterness towards Pronger but Peca?

At 11:41 p.m., December 23, 2006, Blogger Desdemona said...

Not that excuses O'Neill in anyway, but I've met him and he's just an ass all of the time. To anyone. I don't know how a man who's done so little (well, in comparison) can think so much of himself.

As for Maurice, I just took that as his wry sense of humour. Of course, I only read the comments, I didn't hear them so I have no idea what the tone was behind it.

Did anyone actually see the hit - not the just the highlight of the hit but what happened before that? It's hard to tell from a highlight if that was intentional or not? Was it? Was it accidental?

Man every time I miss a Leaf game a good man gets hurt... I like Mike. I liked him in Buffalo, Edmonton and now he's on my team and this just blows.

At 12:47 a.m., December 24, 2006, Anonymous Indrew said...

Ignorance is bliss, especially when you are as washed up as Jeff O'Neill.

At 1:05 a.m., December 24, 2006, Blogger Julian said...

Forward or defenseman, Mirtle's point was that Vandemeer plays a pretty important role on his team if he's getting put out there for twenty minutes a game. It'd take someone who knows more about both teams than I do, but it sounds to me like there could be an arguement made that Vandemeer plays just as an important role on the Hawks as O'Neil does on the Leafs.

At 6:02 a.m., December 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The clip would be a lot better if it were accompanied by a Thiesmanesque cracking sound. Vandermeer is nails. Ask anybody who watched him play in Red Deer.

At 11:52 a.m., December 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

O'Neill is far from washed up.

As for the hit, Vandermeer was lining Peca up for a while and when Peca moved he hit what was in front of him which was Peca's knee. He didn't slow up or try to avoid it. He drove through it.

Cox's article yesterday was a little scary because it seemed to suggest that Peca might not have it in him to make another long recovery.

Vandermeer is probably more important to the hawks but since the injuries have taken out 4 of the Leafs' top six forwards Jeff is suddenly much more important.

At 4:55 p.m., December 24, 2006, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Grabia, I bet you loved Peca in the playoffs. I understand residual bitterness towards Pronger but Peca?

I have no bitterness towards Peca. I never expected him to do anything, and wasn't surprised when he didn't. He played great in the playoffs, but that doesn't mean he earned his salary. In fact, he's the bitter one. He couldn't handle playing in Edmonton, and hasn't stopped whining about it since he left. Apparently it was unfair for fans to expect a guy making a few million bucks to get some points.

At 6:37 p.m., December 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not really all that surprised by Chairman Mo's comments--this is a guy who, when he was coach here, was quite proud of the fact that he never bothered to give even the most cursory of glances at how our prospects were faring.

Of course, I'm not surprised by O'Neill's comments either--he's always been a pot-and-kettle kinda guy.

At 6:50 a.m., December 25, 2006, Blogger alyosha mcbain said...

With 44 goals in his last 178 games, what does O'Neill qualify as other than washed up? He had a four-year run as an elite forward and is a shadow of his former self.

At 1:22 p.m., December 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Peca has never been close to the player he was before he was cheap-shotted by Darcy Ticker. That Peca has forgiven him says a lot for Michael as a person.

He had a fine playoff in Edmonton, but that came after a regular season in which he took a lot of heat for non-production. He made almost $4M to be a checker/penalty killer with almost no offensive production after being dealt by the Islanders in a salary dump (Mike Milbury, for all his foibles, was able to recognize that Peca wasn't what he used to be.)

At best, Peca is a third-line, checking/penalty-killing/faceoff-
winning center who may or may not be as valuable to the Leafs as Vandermeer is to Chicago. I hope he makes a full recovery, but his career has never been what it was before April 2002.

At 9:43 a.m., December 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peca is the bitter one? Riiight.

At 3:15 p.m., December 26, 2006, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Peca is the bitter one? Riiight.

You got us. The loss of those 23 points, at approximately $173,870 per point, keeps us up at night.

I guess it could be worse. My team could have 16 million in salary devoted to three defencemen.

At 4:28 p.m., December 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't go there, dude. High priced defensive talent is too easy a topic.

Though I will say Toronto's D corps is quite productive. And Kubina isn't even chipping in on the regular yet, which we all know is just a matter of time.

And calcuating points/dollar seems like an exercise in bitterness to me.

How much salary did Peca earn per for his 15 pts (incl 2GWGs) in 35 games? $71,138? And people say the Leafs overpaid.

At 2:49 p.m., December 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leaf fans didn't seem too bothered when Tucker did the same thing to Peca a few years back. Is this Karma for the Leafs? Too bad for Peca who seems to continually be on the receiving end.

At 4:46 p.m., December 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leaf fans weren't too bothered because Tucker's hit was perfectly clean.

At 12:23 a.m., December 29, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tuckers hit was cheap and so is this one. If some of you think that hockey is just about a ratio of points:paychecks you are seriously mistaken. Peca is a heart and soul guy and many of these posts are blasphemy toward him and the hockey gods, shame on you.


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