What’s Wrong With The Toronto Maple Leafs?
Fresh off of an embarrassing 6-0 loss to a Columbus Blue Jacket lineup that was without the services of defenseman James Wisniewski and forwards Nathan Horton, Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle has to be concerned with his teams lack of effort and the overall inconsistency with which the Blue and White seem to be approaching opponents.
While Toronto still sits fourth overall in the Eastern Conference standings, they have amassed a paltry 4-5-1 record in their past ten games, scoring a pathetic 18 goals over that span, nine of which came in games against the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders in which the Leafs scored a total of four and five goals, respectively.
To say the Maple Leafs are struggling offensively would be an understatement. Sure, the Maple Leafs were without the services of Nazem Kadri for three games and early season spark plug Dave Bolland has also been absent, as has Tyler Bozak. That said, the Maple Leafs’ offensive struggles are just one piece of the puzzle that has fans and management in worry mode.
Toronto’s duo of Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have been excellent during their teams recent ten game struggles, giving up just 22 goals until Reimer gave up six against Columbus Monday night, bringing the total to 28 over the ten game span.
While Bernier and Reimer have been steady between the pipes, Toronto’s defenders have struggled to find any consistency and have contributed large to their teams’ penchant for giving up far too many shots on net, giving up a total of 341 shots per game over that ten game span for an average of 34.1 shots per game.
Of course, defense is the responsibility of the entire team, so the forwards have their share of the blame to shoulder as well.
Let’s face it folks, after a great start to the early season, collectively, the Maple Leafs have been horrific of late. Truth be told, the Maple Leafs are yet to play their “B” game, let alone their “A” game, as many of their early season wins came in spite of how the team was performing on the ice— which was questionable on most night’s.
So, what’s wrong with the Maple Leafs?
1. The Maple Leafs rely on their goaltenders far too much, surrendering an alarming 35.6 shots per game (28th overall) and giving up an alarming amount of two-on-ones. To say the Maple Leafs have left their netminders to fend for themselves on more nights than not would be an understatement.
2. Toronto has been grossly effected by the loss of Tyler Bozak, Dave Bolland and the three game suspension incurred by Nazem Kadri didn’t help either. Sure, Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis bolstered his lineup by adding project centre Peter Holland to the lineup, but Holland is just that—a project— and will take time to properly acclimate himself to the Leafs’ lineup.
3. Known as a team with tremendous offensive talent on the backend, Toronto’s blueline has scored a grand total of three goals collectively. Toronto’s backend struggles to make the outlet pass and is guilty of not clearing the net. Toronto’s defense has failed to score a power play goal all season and, in the minds of many, are far too soft.
4. Toronto’s forwards are guilty of being inconsistent. Phil Kessel leads the team with 21 points, which ranks him 32nd overall. After Kessel, Mason Raymond comes in at 17 points, with James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri rounding out the top four with 16 points apiece. Overall, the Maple Leafs rank 15th in goals scored per game— a far cry from when they were consistently ranked in the top five at the beginning of the season. Toronto tends to score in bunches, but they do so far too infrequently, which doesn’t cut it in today’s NHL.
5. Overall, the team has been guilty of bringing an inconsistent effort to the rink. Bernier and Reimer have been excellent, after that, it’s a crap shoot as to what you’ll get on any given game night, and that is a huge issue. Where is the leadership and accountability (Dion Phaneuf).
With Bolland a long way away from returning, Joffrey Lupul out of the lineup with a lower body injury for God knows how long, both Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger playing horrible hockey and the entire team choosing to ignore their defensive responsibilities, there is every reason to believe the Maple Leafs will continue to slide in the standings.
A better overall effort, more consistent scoring, getting the defense to contribute on the power play and the emergence of some accountability would serve the Maple Leafs well. On the other hand, a shakeup via a big trade might just work as well, but with salary cap restrictions handcuffing most NHL teams, a trade might be difficult—especially one the size and magnitude that Nonis would have to pull off.
Buckle up Leaf fans, with December’s schedule looking very tough, it appears as if the Maple Leafs will be struggling right through Christmas. Toronto plays the San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Phoenix Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes— that’s a lot of great teams if you consider where they currently sit in the standings! They also play the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars, but there are no slam dunks in the NHL.
If Toronto fails to figure it out soon, you can count on the Blue and White on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff spot when December is over. The time is now for change— one way, or the other…