Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who will wear the "Larry Murphy goat horns" this season?

Most seasons Leaf fans find a player on the roster to unload their frustrations. They booed Larry Murphy, Jonas Hogland, Trevor Kidd, Aki Berg, Bryan McCabe and others. Last season the “goat horns” were worn by Vesa Toskala who lost to confidence of coaching staff and fans. Coach Wilson keeps his players on a short leash so bad or indifferent play leads to diminished ice time. Still fans like to have their scapegoat so who will the target for abuse this season? There are some potential candidates.

Jeff Finger – Players with bloated contracts are always at risk and when Finger signed his 4-year, $14 million contract last summer it was assumed that he would not live up to high expectations. He turned out to be a steady, stay-at-home defenseman when he wasn’t hurt. With the depth on defense, Finger is unlikely to get the type of ice time that might make him prone to error and fan abuse.

Jason Blake – Two seasons ago he was certainly close to being on the top of the fans’ hate list if not for the error-prone Bryan McCabe. His health was a factor and bounced back to lead the Leafs in scoring last season. But with his large contract he is always at risk if his production should fall off.

Alexei Ponikarovsky – Ponikarovsky has never lived up to expectations. He has speed, and size but has never used either to his advantage. He had his best year last season and was second in the team in goals scored and points scored. If his production tails off the fans will become restless.

Matt Stajan – Stajan joins a group of Leafs that had their best season last year. Mostly because the team lacked depth at the forward position so veterans like Stajan, Moore and Ponikarovsky benefited by getting more ice time. Each season Stajan tends to disappear for a stretch of games. Fans may eventually get fed up with his disappearing act and react with malice.

Lee Stempniak – Stempniak has been the invisible man since the trade with St. Louis. Fortunately the Leafs did not give up anyone that fans cared for that much so has been spared for now. But how long can you get away with doing nothing much on the ice before boo birds start to gather like vultures.

Vesa Toskala – If Toskala does not bounce back from last season, fans will quickly yelling for Coach Wilson to show him the hook and throw Gustavsson in net.