Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Put a fork in the 2011-12 season, the Curse continues

So while I was away the losing continued. I see the Maple Leafs lost all four games and walked away with a single point after a shootout loss to Philadelphia. The coaching change has appeared to have changed the style of play but not the losing. That may take more time.

Under Carlyle the Leafs are playing a more discipline style of hockey which has made games closer but has undermined the offense. I presume that this is partly due to the loss of Joffrey Lupul who has been their most consistent forward. Carlyle has played Jonas Gustavsson every single game. I wouldn't read too much into this really. James Reimer is under contract for 2 more years while Gustavsson is a free agent at the end of the season. The Leafs need to decide if they want to resign him so since the season is lost anyway he is having an extended tryout for a roster spot.

The second half collapse came as a bit of a surprise to me and many others. I was certain the Leafs had enough to make the playoffs although some critics were skeptical. The fundamental flaw they saw was inconsistent goaltending and a team that was defensively lax and exposed their goalies far too much. They got by early on with a strong offensive games but as opponents played a tight checking game against them, the Leafs found themselves frequently behind in games taking too many chances.

I still believe that this team has enough to contend with the following changes:

1. Their offensive run and shoot style was very entertaining but didn't bring results. Fans will accept more boring games if it means winning. So they need to continue to tighten up defensively.

2. You cannot win without consistently good goaltending. I don't believe this tandem is the answer. The Leafs are beginning to feel like the Philadelphia Flyers who also can never find the right goaltending combination.

3. The Leafs have too many small forwards which is just one of many contradictions coming from Brian Burke. He is not shy about expressing his philosophy to building a winner but seems to not follow it. Perhaps the Leafs need a better balance between size and speed.

4. There are too many players who are not pulling their weight. Joey Crabb at 8 goals for the season is acceptable when he is being paid just $750,000 for the season. But Tim Connolly at 10 goals being paid $5,500,000 and Matthew Lombardi at 7 goals being paid $3,500,000 is a disaster. Burke has merely replaced someone else's deadwood with his own.

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