Toronto Maple Leafs Season May Not Be Salvageable
The Buds currently sit with a 8-11-3 record, good enough for 19 points, which puts them 27th overall in the NHL standings.
Offensively the team has been a disaster, averaging a paltry 2.18 goals per game, good enough for 27th overall.
At the other end the defense has been better, giving up a total of 2.68 goals per game, down from the 3.21 goals against per game they gave up last season, but that has not been enough to translate into more wins.
Big name free agents and key acquisitions via the trade route were supposed to have this team in hot pursuit of a playoff spot, but to date the team is yet to meet expectations, playing at a .432 rate, down from last seasons .451 hockey.
With the exception of early season injuries to captain Dion Phaneuf and hard-nosed forward Colby Armstrong the team has been relatively healthy, so there really are no excuses, this team should be getting better results.
The Maple Leafs special teams continue to be anything but. The “power play” is operating at a 15.2 percent success rate—just slightly up from last season’s 14.0 percent—while the penalty kill is plodding along at an embarrassing 73.1 percent success rate, down from last seasons 74.6 percent success rate.
Simply put, regardless of all the warm fuzzy accolades suggesting that the Leafs are an improved team with a better compete level this team looks to regressing, which is pretty tough to do when you consider the Leafs finished the 2009-10 season in 29th place.
The Buds played their first 15 games against Eastern Conference foes, accumulating a record of 5-7-3. When the season commenced I thought those first 15 games would seal the Maple Leafs fate—play better than .500 hockey and they would have a great chance at the playoffs, play below .500 and you have what we have today.
Much of the Maple Leafs struggles have been blamed on the forwards, but I would suggest laying out a little of the blame on the defense, who, to date, have registered a grand total of three goals through 22 games.
Bottom line, as the saying goes, you win as a team and lose as a team and, thus far, this team has done more than it’s fair share of losing.
As short sighted as that thinking is, one could argue that the team might benefit from a change behind the bench, but it is debatable that another coach could get much more out of the current crop of talent.
For all the improvements Burke has made in his two year stint with the Maple Leafs he is yet to solidify the top two lines and the team is still very weak down the middle.
For all of the woes and all of the troubles surrounding the club there is still time to right the ship, but the results have to come fast and furious, starting with a big December.
The Maple Leafs will wrap up November with a match against the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning. If everything goes as expected the Leafs are bound to find themselves on the losing end of the battle, which will put them in an even bigger hole than they already are.
December looks to be an extremely tough month as the Leafs will play a total of 13 games, eight of which will be against Eastern Conference foes, including the likes of first place Washington Capitals, the surging Philadelphia Flyers, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the always tough Montreal Canadiens and the dreaded Boston Bruins—who Phil Kessel can’t seem to score against.
Other tough matches include games against the Vancouver Canucks, the greatly improved Atlanta Thrashers, a desperate New Jersey Devils squad and the surprising Columbus Blue Jackets—who currently sit eighth overall in the standings heading into Monday nights games.
Clearly there will be no easy games, unless of course you count the two games against the Edmonton Oilers, but hey, anything can happen—especially when the Maple Leafs are involved.
With the team struggling in all areas of the game, a tough schedule ahead of them and no top-six forwards in sight one could make a good argument that, just 22 games into the season the writing is already on the wall—the Leafs will not be making the playoffs this season.
Realistically if the leafs managed to play .500 hockey in December I think we’d all take it, which is to say, we Leaf fans have once again succumbed to the fact that we are going to have to accept mediocrity…at best.
Until next time,