At their homecoming in Tralee, it was confirmed manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his backroom team will stay on for another year. Sunday’s loss to Dublin had marked the end of Fitzmaurice’s three-year deal with the Kingdom.
More importantly, he knows he has not met the expectations he has set for himself. And it’s getting to him.“I’m trying. It’s obviously weighing on me a little bit and I’ve never really gone through a stretch like this in my career,” Barrie said.HALL OF FAME: Two-time Stanley Cup defenseman Sergei Zubov ‘was always a special player’Until being acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade on July 1, Barrie had spent his entire career – all 484 games – with the Colorado Avalanche. From the start of 2013-14 to the beginning of this season, he was tied for eighth in scoring among defensemen over that time period with 294 points.With the Avalanche, Barrie was the engine on the power play, but in Toronto his usage has changed. Morgan Rielly has drawn the assignment with the Maple Leafs’ top unit, leaving Barrie with the second unit, one that rarely starts the power play. His power play ice time is down from 4:03 per game last season to 2:15 so far in this campaign. Last season he had 25 power play points; 30 the year before. This season, just one assist.Though his first quarter of the season has not been what he, the Maple Leafs or even fans had in mind, coach Mike Babcock still believes in what Barrie can bring to a team.“He’s all in, all the time. He’s a competitive guy, he wants to be good. His game is about instincts, his hockey sense is elite so he has to play loose and driving and jumping,” Babcock said. “So losing confidence. Confidence in the NHL is a tough thing, it comes and goes. He knows he’s a good player, he knows an important piece here. We want him to be a good player, he wants to be a good player. I’m betting on him just because of his past and how competitive he is.”So too, does general manager Kyle Dubas.“I’ve got a lot of belief in him, he continues to show signs of what his form can be and what we knew when we were acquiring him,” Dubas said. “With all these guys, we’ve talked about in previous years that there is an adjustment period and they all have to go through it. Some it’s easier than others and with someone who has been in one place and had success for so long, I don’t really read too much into the early part of it. I look for the positives and there have been a lot of them there lately. I think good things are about to happen.”Jake Muzzin knows what Barrie is going through. When Muzzin was acquired by the Maple Leafs last January after spending all 496 games to that point with the Los Angeles Kings, the adjustment came as a bit of a shock. Like in Denver for Barrie, Los Angeles is a much quieter market for hockey than the fishbowl of Toronto. It can be a shock when all you have ever known for nearly 500 games is something entirely different.To be clear, neither Muzzin nor Barrie were suggesting the culture shock as an excuse. A big move cross continent to a hyperkinetic market is a factor, though. Players are human beings, not the avatars in video games we often come to think of them as. Building a comfort level takes time.Muzzin often shakes his head in media scrums, in awe of the sheer volume of reporters in the room. It’s not that he is complaining about it; it’s just he is still not comfortable with it.“I feel comfortable with the guys and the team. It’s the outside world I’m not really sold on yet,” Muzzin said. “It’s coming, it’s part of the business and the city we play in. It’s just a little different from what I’m used to. The guys did a great job at accepting me. It took a few weeks to start getting to know guys and their personalities and their families and then you can really open up in front of them.”It is natural, Muzzin said, that there is an adjustment for players to go through both on and off the ice. Barrie is no doubt working through it himself.“Oh yeah, there’s emotion, you’re nervous, you don’t feel comfortable, (success) doesn’t happen just like that,” Muzzin said. “You have to build that, you build trust and that takes time. You’ve built that with (your old) team and now you meet a new group of guys and you have to build it again.”While Barrie did not explicitly say he has lost his confidence, he came pretty close to it. If there is one thing that is abundantly clear, Barrie cares. Perhaps too much. Putting poor play out of one’s mind is easier for some than it is others. It does not seem easy for him.“It’s easy in this game to overthink things. You leave the rink and you try to leave it at the rink but I don’t think all of us are built like that,” Barrie said. “You kind of carry the weight, this is our job and there’s a lot of pressure on you and it’s part of your identity so you want to be playing as well as you can.” No goals through 20 games. Just five points. You don’t have to remind Tyson Barrie. He’s well aware his play has not met the expectations set for him.“Switching teams for the first time, you don’t want to feel like you’re letting your teammates down and the fans down,” Barrie said. “I’m just going to try to do a little bit extra, keep working and hopefully success will come.” Tyson Barrie on his struggles:”You try to leave it at the rink but I don’t think all of us are built like that. You kind of carry the weight, this is our job and there’s a lot of pressure on you and it’s part of your identity so you want to be playing as well as you can.”— Dave McCarthy (@DaveAMcCarthy) November 14, 2019Barrie laughed when he recalled numerous better stretches in his career and how different he feels when things are going his way. Only once before – a 26-game stretch in 2017-18 – has he gone longer without a goal than the current 20-game drought he is in the midst of right now. He is hoping this one ends sooner than later.“Oh yeah definitely, there’s definitely times where you feel invincible and everything is going the right way and there’s been stretches of my career where it’s been the complete opposite where it feels hopeless a little bit,” Barrie said. “You just work your way out of it. I definitely feel like I’m in a bit of one of those right now, so hopefully it turns.”For a player who takes it personally as much as Barrie does, the betting here is it will.