Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke, Players And Ron Wilson Are To Blame
Off-season additions Kris Versteeg (who can’t seem to score) and Colby Armstrong (currently injured) have been bitter disappointments to management and the Leafs Nation alike, while big money players such as Dion Phaneuf (also currently injured), Tyler Bozak (who carries a $3.75 million cap hit), Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin have also garnered their fair share of scrutiny for their paltry play.
Through it all Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has stood behind his head coach, suggesting that it is the players who deserve the criticism, not Ron Wilson.
With the players struggling to find their way and the team plunging deeper into the abyss of the NHL standings the question remains, can Ron Wilson turn this sinking ship around?
Through 16 games the maple Leafs are ranked 28th in goals for averaging 2.19 goals per game, 15th in goals against at 2.81 per contest and own two of the worst special teams ratio’s in the league at 11.8% on the power play (26th overall) and 74.6% on the penalty kill (27th overall).
Let’s face it Leaf fans, no matter how you slice it, the numbers aren’t good and until Wilson is able to get a more consistent effort from his troops, they are not going to get any better.
Another top prospect, defenseman Keith Aulie, also showed great promise as a hulking stay-at-home defenseman that may bring an element of toughness and physicality that Brian Burke loves and the Maple Leafs so badly need.
A failing top-six, horrific special teams and the constant call for trades, firings and player movement from media and fans is starting to take its toll, as is the losing.
It’s not often an NHL team can put up an eight game losing streak, the Leafs have done just that.
Contributing to this “mess” is Wilson’s penchant for changing his top six forwards at the drop of a dime.
While Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak (who may find himself permanently demoted to the second line before long) have been a consistent presence on the first line, many of the Maple Leafs other top-six forwards have been moved around to the point that many feel the chemistry between the top units is in question.
On the flipside, if Wilson did nothing, stayed the course and the team was still losing the fans would still want his head. Seems Wilson can’t win no matter what he does!
Between the pipes veteran Stanley Cup winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere has been consistently good between the pipes, while sophomore Jonas Gustavsson looks to be avoiding the sophomore curse.
As much as the Leafs Nation wants to blame Ron Wilson for the teams indifferent performances the bulk of the blame be thrust upon the players shoulders, who, to date, have been a disappointing lot.
In the end, the players play, the coaches coach and the GM manages. Thus far the performances of all three, while encouraging at times, has been discouraging.
There are no magic answers here. The current roster has to play better, Wilson needs to develop stronger game plans (especially where the special teams are concerned) and Burke needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat and bring in some much needed offensive depth (preferably a player with some grit).
The current state of the Maple Leafs, for better or for worse, has been a “team effort”. It’s time everyone looked themselves in the mirror, did a gut check and manned up.
The alternative is more of the same and I, like many Maple Leaf fans, am tired of it. We (Leaf fans) deserve better and if we don’t see some improvement soon the paper bags are gonna come out en mass and nobody wants that…except maybe Boston bruin fans, but that’s a whole other story, isn’t it?
Until next time,