Three weeks ago I noticed a change in one mister Jiri Tlusty. When Jiri first showed up in Marlieland October 6th 2006, he made his presence known with a goal in his first game. He showed early on that he had talent, but he was a young man in a foreign country and talent can only take you so far if you are not yet comfortable with your surroundings. Jiri could be seen leaving the rink back then with his agent. He was able to say hi to fans, but you could tell the English was not yet there. I don’t remember seeing him leave with a team mate. That first year only saw him play in five games before being sent to juniors with the Greyhounds. Jiri did return for the final game of the season that year. Even in his second year you could tell the comfort level was not there. However, about three weeks ago I noticed a different Jiri. I’m not sure when it happened, but he now is comfortable. I was watching the boys with their soccer warm-ups and it hit me. Jiri was laughing at team mates, getting head rubs, and acting like the 20 year old he is, but now looking like he was at home with his surroundings. He can be seen joking not only with team mates but their family members that have gotten to know him. I’m sure this is making life a lot easier for him and of late he has been on fire. His nine game scoring steak has see him score in 7 of those games, including a career high and team record 5 goals against Syracuse February 18th.
Now, I’m always looking for the cause of the change and feeling more comfortable with his surroundings has helped, but why the sudden change? Rumour has it Burke was down and told him if he could not get it done at this level he wouldn’t get the chance at the next. Maybe he won’t here in Toronto. Will Jiri be sent packing in a trade at the deadline as part of the overhaul we’ve heard about? Lately, I have heard that he could be dealt. If this is the case and he is traded, I hope that it is not a mistake; which Burke says happens at deadline deals so often. I was one that early this year was saying that I expect more out of a 13th overall draft pick. Of late he has shown me more and a lot more. Keep it up Jiri, and whether you are dealt or you are not, you have a future in the NHL. Here’s hoping it’s with the Leafs.