If you listen to the drooling praise of Canada’s national broadcaster, you’d be convinced the Toronto Maple Leafs are a better team this season because they finally became the team Brian Burke envisioned. They’re full of testosterone, truculence and belligerence and nobody pushes them around anymore. And as Mikhail Grabovski proved Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens, they bite back…or first.

After all, the Leafs are tied for the league lead in fights this season with 14 and, going into Monday night’s home game against the Philadelphia Flyers, sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 7-5-0 record. After the way the Maple Leafs have played the past seven years, that is indeed cause for celebration.

The common theory seems to be that since the Leafs are so much tougher this season, their skill players have more room to roam and that has improved their fortunes. And all this would have some credence if the team they’re tied with in fights were not the moribund Columbus Blue Jackets. The Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils, the top two teams in the league, have half as many fights as Toronto and Columbus. That’s one more than the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks and two more than the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.

To suggest the Maple Leafs are improved this year – and it’s still early people, even in a lockout shortened season – because of players such as Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren and Mark Fraser is ridiculous. Yes, the Maple Leafs are first in the league in fights and hits with 328, but to measure a team’s worth by those sorts of barometers is picking your spots big-time.