Monday, March 26, 2012

When it comes to the Maple Leafs I can't decide if the glass is half full or empty

The Toronto Maple Leafs are totally baffling and frustrating. We've been watching this wreck being rebuilt over the past 3 years by head mechanic Brian Burke and no one can be sure where we are. Does this team have a solid core of players that needs a few finishing pieces , most of all a solid goalie? Or has the flawed team coming out of the post-lockout period been replaced by different flawed players?

During parts of this season the Leafs have been able to rollover teams with their speed and aggressive play. Other times they have looked limp, timid and confused. Good teams have bad games. Bad teams will have good games. This is a team that will have great games and horrible games.

How much has coaching contributed to all this? Hard to tell. Certainly Brian Burke will never tell. He isn't going to throw his former coach under the bus but we do know that something motivated Burke it replace a couple of assistant coaches in the off season.

One thing is certain, this team needs more than a coaching change to compete. Three years into a rebuild it would be difficult to start from scratch but each piece of this puzzle needs to be examined to see if it is a good fit. The players logging the biggest ice time are Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, but are they really capable of taking on such a load? Some players have been brought in to play a certain role - Colby Armstrong, Tim Connolly, Dave Steckel, Mike Komisarek and Mike Brown. Have they been able to deliver? Some have while others have not.

Remember this is the second youngest team in the NHL. But how much better will some of the 24 to 26 year olds get? Have they plateaued? Do they need more veteran leadership? Do they have the right veterans? Making moves will be tough since 19 players are under contract for next season. It would help if the Leafs could grab a pick in the top 3 in this year's draft. They have had draft picks this high but not kept them. Their last top 3 draft pick was Wendel Clark. We could use another Clark.

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