Leafs Still a Long Way from Being Good.

The Leafs have played 29 games so far this season, or just over one third of their season.  For the most part it has been relatively good start to the season.  Kessel has led the league in goals and points for most of the season, Lupul has been close behind, and the team has generally been fairly comfortably in a playoff spot.  But in reality, the Leafs are a long way from being a contender.

The teams offense has been quite good.  They are scoring goals at about a 3 goals per game pace which ranks them 6th in the NHL.  For the most part I think this is sustainable, especially if they can get healthy and Grabovski and Kulemin can get back to scoring.  The problem is, the Leafs continue to stink defensively and there are no real signs of this getting any better any time soon.  Their goals against average is 3.16 which is 4th worst in the NHL and is worse than last seasons 2.94 gaa.  Only Columbus, Ottawa and Carolina are worse this season and that is not a recipe for success in the NHL.  Yes, not having James Reimer for much of the season is a factor, but the problem has not just been goaltending.

Defensively this team is awful.  It’s been awful for years and there is no evidence that it will be anything but awful in the future without significant changes being made.  The penalty kill is second worst in the league, it was 3rd worst last season, and dead last in both 2009-10 and 2008-09.  The roster is completely different.  The goalies have been changed more than once.  The one constant during those four years has been the coach.  I have given Ron Wilson the benefit of doubt long enough.  Despite the teams record, we have not seen this team make any progress in the one area this team has the most room (and need) to improve.  It is time to fire the coach.

Now it is not all the coach.  The players need to take responsibility too and so does the general manager.  But we need to start with replacing the coach with a good defensive minded coach.  Everyone quickly jumps on the Randy Carlyle bandwagon but I am not convinced he is the guy for the job.  Generally speaking Anaheim hasn’t had a great PK team the past several seasons, but I am open to the idea.  I am actually open to anyone who can bring a fresh look and new defensive awareness to the team.  Once we get the coach in place it will be up to the players to improve.  If they can’t, it’s time to ship some of them out and get some players in who can.

Now I don’t expect any coaching change, if there is one at all, to occur until January (unfortunately), but the Leafs currently sit 4 points out of 12th spot and most of the teams behind them have games in hand.  They are 1-3-1 in their past 5 games and if they go 1-3-1 in their next five they may be out of a playoff spot.  Since November 3rd they are  6-8-2 and that is no where near good enough.  They only reason they look good is their 9-3-1 start.  Come January they could be a few points out of a playoff position.  Let’s hope they don’t wait too long to make a change.

You may be asking, why this post and why now?  Well, it started on Monday when the Leafs were playing the Rangers.  The Leafs got off to a 3-0 start before giving up two goals to the Rangers in the second half of the second period.  Entering the third period I had zero confidence that this team could maintain the lead and I got to thinking that that isn’t a very good reflection on the team.  From that point on I decide I would not consider the Leafs a quality team until I had relatively good confidence that they can maintain a lead.  The Leafs did manage to hold on to the lead and won the game, but they were out shot 12-7 in the third period and generally out played.  It did nothing to change my lack of confidence in their ability to hold a lead.  They have played two games since the Rangers game, one a 3-2 OT loss to the mediocre Devils and the second a 4-2 loss to the struggling Washington Capitals.  They combined to give up 6 powerplay goals in those two games.  These games they could have, and maybe should have, won if they only knew how to kill penalties.  This just reaffirmed to me that until this team learns to play defense and learns how to kill penalties, I cannot consider it a good team.

(End of Rant.  Enjoy your weekend and don’t worry, I’ll guarantee you the Leafs won’t give up any more PP goals this weekend.)


This article has 15 Comments

  1. I find it easier to look at team points per game that way you don’t have to worry about GP as much. Here they are for the East (the last number is goal differential)

    1 Philadelphia 1.393 20
    2 NY Rangers 1.385 18
    3 Boston 1.321 35
    4 Florida 1.276 10
    5 Pittsburgh 1.267 19
    6 Toronto 1.138 -3
    7 Washington 1.107 -1
    8 Buffalo 1.103 0
    9 New Jersey 1.036 -9
    10 Winnipeg 1.034 -10
    11 Montreal 1.033 -3
    12 Ottawa 1.000 -14
    13 Tampa Bay 0.897 -21
    14 NY Islanders 0.889 -26
    15 Carolina 0.710 -29

    1. Yup. Both points per game and goal differential are more reliable ways to look at the standings. Right now there appears to be four top teams, Philadelphia, NY Rangers, Boston and Pittsburgh. Florida I think will drop back some and Washington has the talent to get into the tip tier group. So that leaves Florida, Toronto, Buffalo, Montreal and maybe New Jersey competing for the final 3 playoff spots. I think we’ll see Winnipeg and Ottawa drop back. Tampa could get back into the race too but like the Leafs, they need to learn how to play defense.

  2. A contender? Are you serious bud?? This is the youngest team in the league going into year 3 of the biggest rebuild ever. Sitting 6th in tje conference is a great overachievment that NO ONE predicted. Give your head a shake.

    1. I think you missed the point. At the rate they are going they might not even be a contender for a playoff spot. Only a great October on the backs of completely unsustainable production from Kessel/Lupul give the mirage that the Leafs are a 6th place team.

      1. You can’t use the unsustainable production argument about Kessel/Lupul without acknowledging the equal outlier of the almost total lack of production from Grabovski/Kulemin/MacArthur.

        Young teams are rarely responsible defensively and it’s hard to blame Wilson for his team’s age and makeup. Wilson’s teams prior to Toronto were traditionally around league average, or slightly better, in PK% and Goals against.

        Is it more likely that Wilson has somehow forgotten how to coach these aspects, or more likely that his personnel in Toronto have not been attuned to this aspect of the game ?

        1. MacArthur has 9 goals in 22 games, a pace of 33 goals in 82 games. He has never had more than last years 21 goals. You can’t say he is under-producing.

          Grabovski has 7 goals in 23 games. That’s 25 goals in 82 games. He had 29 last year, by far his best year. Hard to say he is under-producing.

          Kulemin is the only one who is scoring below expected pace having just 2 goals in 29 games. But before last year he never had more than 16 goals so maybe last year was an anomaly.

          Also part of there reason why those guys are producing less is due to the Kessel line getting more ice time, particularly on the PP. Giving that line more PP time so they can get more points will come at a cost to the Kessel lines production. The Macarthur-Grabovski-Kulemin line had 21 PP goals last year, they have 4 so far this year.

          1. You have a true skill for interpreting numbers to fit your position, perhaps politics is in your future.

            Last year MacArthur produced 43 non power play points, he is currently on a pace for 25, last year Grabovski produced 43 non power play points, he is currently on a pace for 38 and Kulemin was good for 44 non power play points and is this year on pace for 20.

            Also if the #2 lines disappointing production can be blamed on lack of power play time then shouldn’t that increased pp time be the reason for Kessel and Lupul’s success ?

  3. The Leafs are 10-0-0 when leading after 2 periods. I agree the defense has been bad, but to say you have no confidence they’ll be able to hold onto a lead going into the 3rd is contrary to what the team has shown so far.

      1. “The Leafs did manage to hold on to the lead and won the game, but they were out shot 12-7 in the third period and generally out played.”

        Not sure if this changes your confidence level, but I think it’s a pretty well-known stat that teams that are behind usually generate more shots.

        It was an oft-referenced trend from the past two years during stretches when the Leafs were one of the top shot-generating teams… usually because they would start every game down 1-0 or 2-0.

        Not that it should switch your opinion either way, but shots allowed aren’t a very good indicator of ‘ability to hold a lead’.

        1. Yes, score effects are a factor, but not that significant of a factor. The Oilers trailed a lot last year, but were still outshot by a wide margin. Toronto trailed a lot last year, but were also out shot by a good margin. It is never good to give up 12 shots in a single period while generating only 7, regardless of score.

  4. I am happy that someone else said it… With the start of the season and the way things were going, everyone was in La La Land. Wilson is the one peice throughout this entire rebuild that hasn’t been changed. Certain things have changed, from goalies, to defencemen, to forwards, heck… even assistant coaches, goalie coaches and i think strengthening coach. Clearly Wilson’s idea of what the defence should be doing is not working… A fresh “look” is exactly what we need…

  5. Ron Wilson was supposed to be a penalty killing genius coach that in 4 years has shown no improvement.Why this isn’t practised until they puke is beyond me. I have no confidence in the Leafs PK, and think strategy wise they’d be better off to put the puck in their own net right away to give them more time for a comeback. Power play goals are inevitable against a team that doesn’t seem to notice that it’s that very component that prevents them from being a playoff participant.

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