The Suck Files is going to be a short segment done occasionally when I think a Leaf has played poorly enough to warrant his own Suck File in The Filing Cabinet of Suck.
Well, the much anticipated first game of the season was tonight, and it was a doozy. The Leafs lost 4-3 with 12.4 second left in overtime as I am sure most of you know. If you didn't you've come to the wrong place because this isn't a recap, its.... THE SUCK FILES. *cue music*.
Brian Burke further excited Toronto on July 1st when he brought in free agent Francois Beauchemin from his old haunt, The Anaheim Ducks. In Anaheim Beauchemin was perpetually in the shadows of stalwarts Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. By all accounts Beauchemin preformed superbly in his time with the Ducks, including during the Stanley Cup winning 2004 playoff run. When the 29 year old arrived in Toronto, he was greeted by Legions of fans and a cool $3.9 million dollars per year. Much was made of the opportunity Toronto afforded Beauchemin to finally emerge from the relative obscurity of playing behind two of the premier defensemen in the game. It should also be said though, that I read in several different publications that the Toronto fan base should be wary of overstating the skill Beauchemin brings to the table.
Throughout the preseason, Beauchemin played quite well, he was solid defensively and had a booming Slap shot from the point thus making him a deadly asset on the Power Play. The first inkling I got of a possible crack in Beauchemin's armor was in the final game of the preseason, when he was caught out of the play on several occasions often leading to an odd man rush. Considering the poor play of the majority of the Maple Leafs in that game, I didn't think to much of it. But in tonight's loss to the hated Habs, the defensive miscues began to rear their ugly head once more. in the second period Beauchemin once again showed his penchant for taking the body even if it means taking himself completely out of the play. On one occasion, this lead directly to Montreal scoring to make it 2-1 Canadians. Throughout the game, Beauchemin made glaring give aways, failed to get the puck out of the zone or was found to be pinching at inopportune times. As Mike Elmer said: "Francois Beauchemin pinches like a drunken Shriner" and again this lead to scoring chances for the wrong team.
By most narratives, anything but rock steady dependability is Unbeauchemin-Esqe. He has an uncanny ability to stay calm under fire, and make smart plays at the most important of times. I am inclined to believe that what we have witnessed in the last two games is not typical of Beauchemins play in Anaheim, otherwise, he would not has been part of the second defensive paring on a team loaded with defensive talent, and built "From the net out".
Clearly Burke has faith that Beauchemin can make the transition from playing second fiddle in Anaheim to being counted on in the most important of instances in Toronto. This includes playing 27 minutes per game as he did tonight, As well as being on the top Powerplay unit.
We will have to wait and see if he will take path 1 - rising to the challenge and performing as a first rate defensemen does. Or path 2 - being unable to meet the expectations held for him and proceeding to fall in the depth chart. It is my hope he choose path 1 and clearly there is important hockey figures who think he has the ability to rise to the challenge, because he was given a tryout for Canada's Olympic Hockey team. We may just have to wait and see if he becomes acclimatised to his new role, in a much bigger Hockey market then Anaheim, and when that day comes, I will formally remove his name from... THE SUCK FILES *cue music*
Today's fab video is: Beauchemin giving the BEAT DOWN to Tomas Kopecky.
Stay thirsty my friends.