“Welcome, Rick, to the Toronto Maple Leafs coaching staff. Please affix this rather large target to your back – no, no, the back – the one on the chest is for the players. Oh, I see, that’s just permanently embedded there from your playing days. Carry on.”
I already feel bad for Rick St. Croix. It’s a familiar feeling, since I felt pretty bad for him 30 years ago (more or less), too. My biggest memory of him as a player is giving up six goals and winding up amongst the game stars because he was clearly the best Leaf on the ice.
I also remember him getting a horrific groin injury and being carried off the ice as he gave up the second of two shorties on the same power play (both to Steve Kasper of the Bruins). Such was the lot of an 80s Leaf goalie.
This time around, I feel bad for him because of the manner in which the previous guy left. Allaire walked away with accusations of meddling and infighting amongst the coaches and the complaint that he wasn’t permitted to do his job. This led to angry rebuttals and the suggestion that if the Leafs’ coaching staff was dysfunctional, a good part of it was his refusal to engage with anyone. This led to more rebuttal, lots of online posturing and a general sense (to my mind) that the new guy is hosed no matter what he does.
Of course, being totally hosed no matter what he does would be rather familiar to Rick and this might be one of his chief attributes as a Leaf coach. I can imagine a session with James Reimer:
“Coach, our penalty kill is horrifying, we’re awful in our own zone, we give up so many gilt-edged chances that I just can’t stop them all. I know the D is trying, but sometimes the way that they play I wonder if they secretly hate me and are trying to run me out of town.”
(Rick reaches into a pile of musty old VHS tapes.)
“Watch this, kid.” (Note: Yes, I know it’s Palmateer, but the point holds – check out the first goal)
“Golly coach! I guess things aren’t so bad after all! I feel a lot better! Thanks!”
“James, look at this hockey card. How old do you think I was here?”
“I dunno – 40? Maybe 45?”
“I was 29. Trust me, kid, you’re still baby-faced. You’re not beat yet. You’ll be fine. Go get ‘em!”
“Thanks coach, you’re the best!”
One can only hope that Reimer’s woes were primarily injury-related and he rebounds well enough that things are like they were when the Leafs played well and nobody remembered who the goalie coach actually was.
As far as my burgeoning Arsenal fandom goes, they just dropped a 2-1 decision to Chelsea, thanks both to defensive miscues and lack of finish. I knew there were lots of superificial similarities to the Leafs, but this is a tad too familiar.
In their previous game, they whomped Coventry 6-1. Coventry was once part of the Premier League, but has been relegated twice, so it’s kind of the equivalent of beating an ECHL club. It makes me thankful, though, that there’s no relegation in hockey. You know that at some point, the Leafs would have wound up in some league that only played lawn darts at the local legion hall.