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The Maple Leafs and the Quicksand that’s Swallowing Them

The Toronto Maple Leafs have hit a tough spot in their season. How will they get out of it? Will they be swallowed by the losses or prosper?

One of my favorite sports movies of all time is The Replacements, starring long-time Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman. Oldtimers like myself will remember that the movie was loosely based on the National Football League’s (NFL) strike in 1987.

During that strike, the then Washington Redskins (now named the Washington Football Team), filled its team with replacement players. They then won all three games they played without any NFL regular players. In fact, that season, Washington went on to win Super Bowl XXII.

Related: After the Maple Leafs Total Beat Down in Pittsburgh: Now What?

As noted, the movie’s plot is this: late in the season the playoffs are coming and the Washington Sentinels regular players are out on strike. To solve the problem, the Sentinels’ owner hires legendary coach Jimmy McGinty (Hackman) and gives him a week to find a team of replacement players.

One of those players was quarterback Shane Falco (who was a great college player who had suffered a crisis of confidence). Falco is joined by a comedic and motley crew of replacements who get a second chance at redemption playing the game they’ve dreamed of their whole lives.

The Scene in The Replacements that Speaks to the Maple Leafs’ Plight

There’s a great scene in the movie where Falco talks about how things can just start to go wrong. Specifically, Falco talked about how a team could get stuck in the quicksand of mistakes and simply lose control of the game when things start going badly.

Sheldon Keefe Talks to the Media

After Saturday’s 7-1 Maple Leafs’ loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke to the media about this same situation. Interestingly, to me, it reminded me of the scene above.

When he was speaking about the game overall, Keefe noted:

“I have a lot of thoughts obviously — not many good ones. I thought that after the first little segment of the first period we found our game. I thought we were going really well. I thought we started the first couple shifts of the second period really well — we were in the offensive zone, moving around a little bit, and we had some chances. Then, we had a turnover in the offensive zone and didn’t have structure coming back, so it ends up in our net, and, before we’re gathered, it’s in our net again, and it’s 3-1.”

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs goalie
Jack Campbell goes to make a save for the Maple Leafs

Keefe then added, “It got away on us there and, obviously, there are a lot of things not to be happy about from that point on. Tough game to assess in a lot of ways because I thought we were going pretty well there for a chunk of time there and then, you know, two pucks are in our net in a hurry and the game didn’t really change from there. I didn’t like how we played from that point on.”

Quicksand and the Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs’ plight is not a movie. What will the team do from this point on? They have a tough game against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight and will face their former starting goalie Frederik Andersen. Will they keep flailing around and sink deeper into the quicksand until it’s over their heads?

Frederik Andersen Carolina Hurricanes NHL free agency
Frederik Andersen is now with the Carolina Hurricanes NHL free agency

Maple Leafs’ fans will know in a few hours how their team will fare. In doing my research for this post, at least one fan put the Maple Leafs’ current plight into historical significance when he spoke in the wake of the team’s 7-1 loss to the Penguins.

I thought I would end this post with his insights and a bit of perspective.

Twitter Post: The Maple Leafs Fans Are Putting Pressure on the Team

Thanks Adam. I appreciate your perspective.

Related: Three Takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 5-3 Loss to the Sharks



  1. Dave

    October 25, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Keefe has lost the room. Guys like Matthews and Marner pay lip service to their responsibilities, but their feet show players coasting and not willing to play outside of their comfort zones. Whether Keefe pushes the right buttons or not, he gets no response. Marner knows a bad game won’t see him moved to the 4th line. Matthews knows that currently more productive players like Engvall, or Kerfoot, or Simmons or Kase won’t steal his ice time or Power play slot. A dose of nostalgia is required to boost some memories and the effort level. Marner’s best run as a Leaf forward came after Babcock moved him to the 4th line. Mitch needed to be reminded how to make every pass a good one. Today if Marner has the puck, it is almost 50/50 that the next player with it will not be a leaf.

    Matthews, coming back from injury, needs to be put into situations with linemates who are puck control all-stars….and he needs to move his feet, to retrieve his own pucks too. If the players won’t play a team game, it is not because the coach isn’t preaching it, it is because some players refuse to buy in.
    A message needs to be sent that the next 3 games may well bring some big changes. This happens every year and the lesson that the Penguins tried to teach – that 20 guys working together for each other and for the coach is the only way to win games consistently.

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  3. gfinale

    October 25, 2021 at 4:18 pm

    Wow, someone besides myself actually remembers Marner getting dropped to the 4th line by Babcock, as he should have been! If the top players don’t lead by example, the rest of the team cannot do the job.

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