Hit the panic button! Sarcasm? No.
The panic button should have been hit when the Leafs were an aging bunch with the Muskoka Five. Then again, it might have been hit so many times that the flipping button is probably not working anymore.
I love the Leafs, I really do. But this team has no identity. Ok maybe they do. What is that identity? A young, fast team? I have been hearing that every season for the past five years, ever since the Leafs got Phil Kessel.
Sure, cool, whatever. We are a fast team but has it benefited the team in any way? Sometimes yeah. Most nights the Leafs are just getting out shot.
What is the issue with the team? Scratch that. What are the issues with the team?
1. I hate blaming it on this guy. Really it is not his fault that the Maple Leafs are in the rut they are in now. However, he is not the go-to guy. He is a very streaky player…though his good streaks outlast his lazy streaks by a margin.
The Leafs need a go-to guy. How they get that? Well, that is the GM’s job.
What is a go-to guy anyway? A player that metaphorically lifts the team out of the pit and miraculously carries them to the glory land. Over-exaggerated, sure. The go-to guy does not have to be a beast of a scoring machine. Take a look at Dustin Brown, Patrice Bergeron, Henrik Zetterberg. What is the theme behind all this? Oh, they are not one-dimensional!
You are allowed to have one-dimensional players but they cannot be the players you depend on always.
2. Defense man, let’s talk about DEFENSE. Ever since the Pat Quinn era, I have been hearing this thing too repeated over and OVER again. Our defense is bad. No, it is not bad. It is terrible. Since 2000, the Leafs have had only two, yes, only TWO reliable defensive defensemen. Robert Svehla and Dmitri Yuskhevich. Is that not pretty alarming?
Yes, they tried to fix it with Komisarek and Beauchemin. That plan failed. At least we can say they gave it a shot. But are you going to tell me that we have not produced a single defensive d-man that teams not only fear to play against, but have trouble playing against since those two, consistently (consistency: the key word, so scratch Luke Schenn of your lists).
3. A very bad stats and cap department (commenting on before Dubas got hired). Let us talk about Clarkson. Yes, it has been discussed 100 times over and over again. Been beaten to death like a dead horse. Give us arm chair GMs a bit of credit at least. His highest points total was 46 points which was in 2011-2012. The only season he ever got above 32 points. As for when the Leafs signed him, his PPG was .50, which in an 82 season would equal 48 points.
Sure 48 points is not bad, but it does not deserve a $5.25 million dollar cap hit. I am not a cap genius but I assumed there was an unwritten cap rule amongst NHL teams which is a forward is only worth above $5 million if he gets 50 points or above. Two points off is not that bad but it was prorated for 82 games. Also if that player only averages 50 points, he must have another dimension to him. Usually it is age, but for Clarkson it was his grit. We knew he was always a gritty player, but at $5 million you are looking for a player that averages more than 50 points.
Well they took a gamble and did not pay off. I can also go on about Phaneuf, I am just not willing to waste my hand on him for today.
4. Management. Why, why, WHY would you have Franson and Gardiner compete for a spot on the team especially when you had Carlyle. It doesn’t make sense. You knew you had a defensive log jam (which is sort of solved now). The beginning of the season was a complete disaster in terms of managing the players, regardless of the results.
The Leafs need a traditional top four and bottom pairing. The bottom pairing has one job only, shut down the players on the fourth and third line score from scoringany goals. That’s it. If you have a Hal Gill in the playoffs, then throw them against the Sidney Crosbys. No fancy plays, we don’t need offense from them. It would be nice, but their main goal should be not letting the opposing teams score.
As for the top 4, two defensive defenseman, one all-around defenseman (your #1 dman) and an offensive defenseman. Easy peasy. Now not all teams stick this rule, you certainly don’t have to. It might be smart for the Leafs to adapt it though.
5. Not knowing whether this team is tanker or playoff team. Management and coaching staff have to sit down, talk it out and realistically decide where this team is headed. I am surprised after 10 years they still have not figured it out. Life goes on right? They need to take a hard look at the stats, progress and projections. Staying in the middle is mediocre. Mediocrity has been following the Leafs far too long.
If the Leafs are anywhere between 6-14 by the end of the season, they might as well call this a failed season.
6. Too many touchable players. Way too many. Only 3-5 players are generally considered as untouchables: Bernier, Rielly, Nylander (still a prospect), Kessel and JVR…maybe Kadri. Apart from them, for some reason, everyone is considered touchable. Our forward crop is generally fine except for that missing #1 center (Bozak is not bad, but he is not great). The scary thing is we have only one defenseman that is playing on our team that is considered untouchable. Just one.
I promise I will limit negativity in my posts. I wanted to write my rant during the win streak but if I did it then, it would have garnered more negative reviews than it would now.
I love the Leafs but something has got to change.
On the bright side, solid effort by the Leafs today against LA!