Thursday, February 01, 2007

Flowers For Antropov

Leafs fans young and old, gather round please. It's time to acknowledge a certain nagging truth that has probably been rattling around the back of your ticker boxes. It's an awkward truth, we'll admit, almost inconvenient actually, but it needs to be said.

Nik Antropov is a decent player.

Say it with us please. Nik Antropov is a decent player. If this causes some of you any consternation, don't be alarmed. That's to be expected. We've been trained to think of Antropov as a no good bum, and with no Hoglund, no Renberg, no Reichel, no Berg to focus our hate on, we've transferred it to this poor guy.

We know the criticism. He's a 6'6 softie who spends too much time in casts, and was a waste of a top ten draft pick. Yeah yeah, we've heard it before. Maybe he went too high, and maybe he has missed an unfortunate number of games, but those are soon to be forgotten pit-stops. Antropov has turned a corner. We can feel it. Surely, you can too.

The Leafs have won their past two games (4-1 over Carolina, 2-1 over the Rangers) and Antropov has been a force in both, displaying all the latent talents most people had given up on. When Antropov puts his mind to it, and that's really key, he can be great. The man is a monster. How do you move 6'6 of pure Kazakh muscle? And he has the hands too, though sometimes he seems to forget it. If you saw the nifty bank-off-the-boards deke he pulled on Scotty Walker, you'll know what we're talking about.

Here's what Antropov needs to do. He needs to finish the season without missing any more games, and he needs to score twenty goals. He has eight so far (through 23 games), so while it may seem a lofty goal, its not impossible. If Antropov can complete that checklist, and continue to play every game from here on with the same I'm-bigger-than-you attitude, he will be well on the way to finally earning the elusive love of Leaf Nation. It's about time anyway.


Sidenote: This
article makes us feel very squiggly inside. The arguments for trading Mats Sundin are there, but... we just can't get behind it. Our journalistic integrity is compromised here. We simply don't have the distance required to take a unbiased stand. And... if Sundin is gone, then who exactly becomes the face of the franchise? Tomas Kaberle? Not likely. This may be selfish, but Sundin means too much to Toronto. He is going to retire a Leaf.

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