Counter Argument: Status Quo Is the Way to Go for the Leafs

10 games into the season and panic has already started in Leaf Nation. The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a rough start to the season getting only 9 of a possible 20 points in the first 10 games with the bulk of them at home.

With a tough stretch of road games upcoming, the Leafs are in danger of having things go from bad to worse.

As a result there has been plenty of calls for change to salvage the season.

The thing is, there are 72 games remaining on the schedule and plenty of time to turn things around. The other thing is the Leafs currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot despite their bad start. Its what many predicted the team would be around in the first place so they are really no better no worse off than expected.

Change may help add a spark or even shake things up a little, but because a) the Leafs are limited in terms of resources and b) have firmly committed to what they have in place right now to try and get the job done this season, it is probably best for the team to maintain status quo and ride out the season to see what happens.

Gm John Ferguson’s hands are tied until at least the trade deadline with the Leafs brushing up against the cap maximum. Therefore the only hope is for the current group to bring the Leafs out of their struggles. There has been calls for Ferguson’s head as he has taken much of the blame for the team’s current plight. However anyone new brought in will need plenty of time to turn things around and make the necessary changes. There are too many unmoveable parts thanks to contract length, salary and player options to decline leaving Toronto. there is not much anyone new could do different for this season at least.

There has been calls for the team to fire head coach Paul Maurice. This is mostly due to his goalie management skills, his team’s inability to play defence, and the Leaf’s unsuccessful special teams. But really he is only working with what was given to him. His lineups have often been depleted due to injuries and he has had to throw in plenty of minor league talent in key roles. The talent he does have is pretty much offensive minded. Therefore he implemented an attack system based on what he had. There is plenty of skill and offensive smarts on this team and lots of size. So using this to his advantage he wanted his troops to play aggressive, forecheck and try and hemm teams in their zone using their size to control the play and cycle the puck. He also encourages his D to join the rush as most of them are quite capable. The result has been the Leafs being one of the best offensive teams in the league. Maurice is only trying to play with the team’s strengths.Like how expansion teams usually play trap hockey thanks to a lack of talent. Maurice has plenty of skill and thus uses it accordingly. 92 games, missing the playoffs by a point while the team still sits 8th currently is not enough reason to let him go. Sure he needs to improve the team defensively but thats ultimately up to the players to perform.

There are many good things to like about the Leafs and there still is a chance for the team to turn things around and turn it up a notch.

They are getting good goaltending. The numbers do not suggest this but both Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala have played well. What they need to do now is to steal a game or two in the next bit to help the team get some confidence back and not worry so much that every mistake is going to end up in the net. While the use of both goalies keeps them fresh, I think one of them needs a run of games to get their own confidence going.

Offensively they are one of the best in the league. While they need to improve their PP, they are scoring enough to win. Nik Antropov has been a huge suprise being among the leading goal scorers in the NHL. He has a ton of confidence and has probably been their best player this year. I say probably because Mats Sundin will garner some votes as well. He is among the leading point getters so far this season and looks nothing like a 36 year old on the down side of his career. He is playing with purpose and fire and creating something almost every shift. To be able to be among the league’s most potent offensive teams despite not having 3 potential top 6 forwards in the lineup is impressive. Not sure how long Antropov and Sundin can keep it up, but the Leafs will ride them for as long as possible.

It is surprising the Leafs are where they are, especially considering how atrocious they have been defensively.

Its obviously a part of the game the team needs to work on. They may not have the horses to play air tight D and perhaps as some have suggested, they should acquire a player or two who could help in their own end. But the defensive problems are a team issue and as a team they need to come together and shape up their play in their end.

Its a confidence thing as much as it is ability. The team lacks confidence in not only their abilities but the abilities of their teammates. There is no trust and therefore it has led to players running around chasing the puck and being out of position. Until they start believing in eachother, all the defensive schemes, systems and strategies will do the Leafs no good.

As mentioned earlier, maybe some goaltending heroics and stealing a couple of games in the next short while will instill the confidence in the team that a mistake will not cost them a goal every time. It may take a little while, but when the team gets some confidence, it should play much more relaxed and that can only help them defensively.

What has to stop immediately is the excessive penalties. They as much as the mistakes, breakdown and soft goals have cost the Leafs games. Their PK has improved, but still not good enough to handle 10 kills a game. The penalties are nothing short of selfish and lazy. There is no excuse for them. Maurice needs to start laying down the law for those taking dumb penalties. He tried that for a bit last game, benching Alex Ponikarovsky for a period for taking his 4th stupid penalty in 2 games. While it wasnt much of a punishment, Ponikarovsky responded with the tying goal. Maurice needs to use this tactic more often. That may be the only thing to get these players to learn.

The defensive mistakes and penalties will not stop for good. But the team can at least try to limit them. That is the best they can do and just about all anyone can ask for from this team.

While the struggles have been difficult, things are not as desperate as some may suggest. If they can someone manufacture a boost to the team, be it a strong game or a goalie stealing away 2 points, it will probably go right to their hands and legs and help them shake off the jitters. Getting away from the fishbowl with all these road games could help them gel as well and avoid hearing the nightly jeers of the early season games.

There is lots to like about the Leafs.

They have some decent young players playing fairly well and seemingly getting better. Players like White, Stajan and Steen are doing ok in increased roles and the team is chomping at the bit to have Coliacovo back as well as Wellwood.

Antropov has been a huge surprise and so has Simon Gamanche in his brief stint with the Leafs. Pony needs to avoid the box but he’s on pace for 20 goals again. And even Raycroft has looked fresher and better this season.

This is their under 30 group and while they are not world class as say the youngsters that play for the Penguins or Hawks, its not so desolete as many claim. And the fact the farm team is in first with the help of guys like Stralman, Pogge, Kronvall, Tlusty and other youngsters can only be a good sign for the organization.

72 games is a long way to go. While this road stretch coming up will be difficult until things play out, more games are played and more time has passed, there is no need for knee jerk panic moves that may not change anything for the team and where it goes. The
y’re not out of it yet.

45 Responses to Counter Argument: Status Quo Is the Way to Go for the Leafs

  1. leafy says:

    Very interesting thoughts.  The discouraging thing about the Leafs so far, in my view, isn't their 9 points after 10 games.  It's the fact that they're playing lousy.

    Where last year they controlled the play for the most part and spent most of the time in the opposing team's zone, playing an effective puck possession game, this year is the complete opposite: They spend most of the time pinned in their own zone and they almost never have the puck, and when they do, they lose it in a hurry.

    If they can change this quickly, then sure, the team's fortunes can turn around.  But once trade deadline comes and they're out of it, they need to cut their losses and think of the future.

  2. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    On pace stats

    White 16 goals
    Kaberle 24 goals
    Gamache 25 goals, 50 points
    Sundin 140 points 50 goals
    Poni 35 goals
    Stajan 60 points
    Blake 90 points
    Antropov 55 goals

  3. senators101 says:

    That’s not going to last. More than a tad inflated. You can’t use those stats for anything productive, otherwise Mike Cammaleri will be scoring 82 goals this season.

  4. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    exactly my point. by the same token, the negative aspects are overinflated. however its not unreasonable to thinkthe leafs could lead the NHL in goals for. I dont remember a team leading the league in goals for ever missing the playoffs.

  5. nordiques100 says:

    lack of depth and penalties. ofcourse they will be hemmed in when they take 10 penalties a game.

    i dont think they have the depth to sustain that pressure. they have no 4th line and when they're on, they either give up a goal or get in trouble thus resulting in lost momentum.

    the other thing…….wozniewski's defence pair playing often when sundin is on the ice. he is terrible. i'd rather see mccabe/kabby go from 22-23 minutes to 25-26 and shave off any time from woz. thats what kills momentum. he gets in so much trouble…especially with kubina running around or gill cause he is equally as slow. they lose momentum taht way. i honestly dont know how anyone can justify his play as being good. to me he does more harm than good. and if him playing at the expense of stralman or even kronvall or heck even the minor league guys is justifyable, thats just wrong and bad decision making.

    its usually one shift that carries momentum to the next one. they cant keep it up cause they have too many weak players in key spots. i so cant wait for coliacovo to come back.

  6. senators101 says:

    The leafs will be in the top few again in goals for, yes.  But do you actually think their defensive aspects have been overinflated? Both goalies are playing well and they are still getting shell-shocked.

  7. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    Toskala is playing well, Raycroft is playing average. This defense is WAY worse than it was last year. and i dont know why it is. for whatever reason every ounce of progress McCabe made last season has gone out the window.

    if the leafs can keep the hot offense, and controll the play like they did last season, the goals against wil go down.

    of course by contrast, if they cant do that, the offense could cool down and send this team into a major losing slide.

  8. leafy says:

    Agreed on Woz.  Just doesn't look like NHL material.  Maybe a no. 7 guy if you've got nobody else.  You're right also that Carlo should be able to help the D.

  9. senators101 says:

    I think Raycroft and Toskala are playing equally well.  Neither of them are playing bad enough to lose, but neither of them are playing well enough to steal a game. 

    The leafs need Team Defense.  Peca would be useful right now.  As well as Mike Johnson who just signed with the blues for next to nothing.  They need a shutdown line to control top offensive lines.  Clearly, they don't have the 2 defense in the back to do it, so they should start with the front.

  10. bishop7979x says:

    It’s been, on average, 10 games into the season for most teams, just because Cammalleri is on pase for over 100 points and zetterberg is on pace for almost 200 points doesnt mean its going to happen, and at least in their cases these are guys who have had point per game averages at least once in their careers.

    max talbot is on pace to score 40 goals this season, it doesnt mean its gonna happen.

    Stajan has been scoreless in what 6 out of 10 games, just because guys like he and gamache have had a COUPLE of MULTIPOINT games EARLY on doesnt mean they’ll keep that pace up, look deeper than the projected numbers on espns stats page.

    I’d bet none of those players reach anything close to those numbers, with MAYBE the exception of kaberle and Sundin.

    leaf fans . . .

  11. leafy says:

    This is exactly what I told Senators101 yesterday (about Raycroft and last year's defence compared to this year) and he called me a bonehead.  I don't think he likes me, no?

  12. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    did I anywhere on that reply say those players would REACH those marks. i simply put down a few facts. it shows that the first 10 games of the season, have not been as negative as people say.

  13. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    Toskala stole the game against florida, and Raycroft lost the game against chicago.

    Peca and mike johnson and individual defensive assets wont help the leafs. the leafs are a bang and crunch all offense, control the play type team. they need to do that to get back into the win column.

  14. senators101 says:

    Last year's defense was better than this year (I AGREE).  BUT IT STILL WASN'T GOOD.

  15. senators101 says:

    I know they are that type of team, but for them to win then, they have to have shutdown defense.  Teams can't fight fire with fire unless they got defense to back them up, which the leafs dont have.

    Raycroft let in one bad goal.  Chicago had 39 shots and 3 powerplay goals to win.  You can't look at one bad goal and judge his performance all season on that.  With the game against Carolina, the Leafs were up 1-0 and the first two goals that carolina scored to go up 2-1 into the first intermission, were toskala's fault.  After that, the leafs played like shit, but it was because of him they were down in the first place.  I'm not blaming him and saying his performance was bad all season because of that.

  16. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    I said Toskala STOLE a game, Raycroft lost a game. all the other games were not really decided by goaltending.

    Minnesota can play shut down defense. New Jersey can play shut down Defense. Brian McCabe and Ian White CANNOT play shut down defense. They need to play better team defense. They need to play well enough that they arent handing other teams chances(ala end of last year) but they can't play shut down defense.

  17. senators101 says:

    Which is exactly my point.  The Leafs don't have defense that can shutdown a top line. 

    What I said was that if a team wants to fight fire with fire, they NEED a shutdown defense, something the leafs dont have.  So, the only way around that is dedicating one forward line that can sakte and play good solid defensive hockey to assist in SLOWING down the big boys on the other teams.

    Ex.  In Ottawa, our coach likes to play alfy's line against the other big boys, but we got Volch and Phillips helping out if alfy, spezz, and heater cannot contain them. (This option isn't available to the leafs.)

    If Alfy, Spezz, and Heater cannot play, their second choice is Kelly, Vermette, and Neil.  All three can skate and play well defensively.  With these guys, you don't need Phillips and volch, instead, they play Redden and Meszaros (not superstars defensively, but capable).
    This option IS available to the leafs.  Just one line to slow down the others teams big line and they'll be in better shape.

  18. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    i disagree. look at detroit. They play very well offensively because they have defensemen who control the puck, and chip in on the offense (keep the puck in the zone, stuff like that). Those defensemen (Kronwall, Lidstrom, Rafalski) dont play shut down defensive style, they merely keep the puck in front of them. At their best McCabe and Kaberle can do this, but are no where close to it right now.

  19. nordiques100 says:

    carlo is terrific its too bad his career likely will be over by age 30 and he'll only play like 60 games a year. he's the next al iafrate LOL

  20. bishop7979x says:

    What you should be concerned about is how the goals are being scored. 

    1.  toronto is, like last season, one of only 2 teams in the top 10 in goals scored that is being out scored, buff being the other.  and both teams only have 3 wings.  so yes, they could be in the towards the top and miss the playoffs if they keep that up.

    2.  Look at the team as a whole, there are only two players on the team with more than 3 goals.   antropov, who one cannot expect to continue at this torrid pace given that hes never broken 20 goals in his career, and sundin, who can be counted on to be a great player, but cannot do it himself.  Blake is on pace for 20 goals, hes more likely to get around 25 to 27 than he is to get 40 again, and with tucker out indefinitely, theres not much goal scoring depth on this team.  Poni and steen will probably get around 20 again.   

    but look at teams like these 4 from last season

    1.  Buff (team total 298) two around 40, two around 30, three around 20, and 1 around 15, thats 215 for 8 guys

    2.  Ott (team total 286) one 50 goal scorer, two guys around 30, two guys around 20 and a 3 more at 15.  thats almost 200 goals between 8 guys, 

    3.  Pittsburgh (team total 267) pulled out three 30s three more around 20 and 3 guys in the mid teens, thats 200 goals between 9 guys, 

    4.  Colorado (team total 267) 4 who average 30 between them, one player at 20 and five guys at 15 or above for 215 goals between 10 guys

    this is what a team has to do to be leading the league in goals, the leafs cant do that, they dont have the depth.  To be a top 3 league leader in goals for I think it is reasonable to look for your top nine guys to get you 200 goals Minimum, at this time I'd break down the leafs like this:

    Sundin and Antro 30 each, Blake 25, Steen and Poni kaberle around 20 each and to round out the top 9, Gamache, Stajan and Mccabe 15 each.  thats 190 in a best of sitiuation, thats giviing antro 12 over his best year, kaberle 9 more than last year and probably rounding up on gamache and maybe even blake.  They will be above average, but they wont be in the top all year, and unless they shore up their defense the playoffs might slip through their fingers

  21. nordiques100 says:

    disagree on raycroft losing that game against chicago. 5 on 3 was not his doing. its his stupid teammates taking selfish penalties. and the penalties didnt stop there. its the skaters who kill the momentum they have taking penalty after penalty.

    he did face like 40 shots. was there a soft goal that ended up being the differnece? yes so it can be perceived he blew it.

    but you could say taht too in the atlanta game which toskala should have had the 1st goal for atlanta. they lost 5-4 = the differnece. so you could as easily argue the goalie blew that game too.

    or the alfredsson goal that won it for the sens in ottawa. it was weak…..but it was the team to blame for again leaving the goalie in situations where they have to kill off a million penalties.

    can you single out ray last year? yes. this year? no.

  22. senators101 says:

    But look at Detroits defensive forwards:

    Holmstrom is a workhorse
    Kris Draper plays for Canada for this specific reason
    Johan Franzen
    Sameulsson (always gets back to fill in his defensive role)
    Filppula fast and defensively aware

    Combine those guys with a couple extremely solid defensive defenders in Chelios, Lilja, Lebda (solid two-way defenseman).

    Although Lidstrom and Rafalski are both offensively gifted, they have much more defensive talent than people like Kaberle.  Rafalski was the go-to guy in NJ and has experience from that team of Defense first.  And you can't say anything bad about Lidstrom, ever.

    So yea, they are extremely gifted up front, but even they have shutdown guys on both ends of the ice, offense and defense.

  23. leafy says:

    Or the next Tim Horton.  He had tons of injury issues early on, but eventually recovered and the rest is history.

  24. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    the leafs had 13 players with 10 or more goals last season, Oneill left, and Bell and Blake were added. This team scores as  team, not as a few players.

  25. leafy_luca says:

    I agree with you when you say that the leafs must remain status quo as they are playing without the likes of Colaiacovo, Wellwood, Bell and Tucker and have not found their number one goalie yet. I agree with Sundin and Antropov being great this year. However on the other hand i disagree with what you say about the leafs skilled offense being able to take them into the post season. Defense wins games, offense can only get you a lead and nothing more.

    I know my article was very critical about the leafs even though it was just 10 games into the season and you do make logical points but they are not sound points. The leafs are in 8th spot because they've played 2 or 3 more games then almost every other team. They've got a pathetic 9 points out of a possible 20. You say that at the end of the day it is up to the players to perform and the coach should not get fired. Well if that is the case then why do coaches in the NHL get fired? Maurice's coaching decisions are terrible. McCabe and Kaberle aren't even paired together. Kubina's getting the most ice time on the team. He keeps breaking lines up as if they were Ritz crackers. Improving this hockey club goes far beyond benching players for taking dumb penalties.

    You then go on to talk about Ferguson's hands being tied until the trade deadline. It's his own fault for his hands being tied because he signed players like Kubina and McCabe and Gill to lucrative contracts. Ferguson needs to be on his way out because the problems he created are unsolvable. Who's going to pick up Kubina's hefty contract through trade?

    Players need to look at themselves in the mirror and put it on themselves to improve this hockey club on their own. For example Steen has as many goals as McCabe has in his own net. This should be a career year for this guy.

    I know that there is a lot of time to turn things around but facts are facts, the Leafs are not a very good hockey team because of poor personnel.

    Mistakes you made: Kronvall is Kronwall
    Gamanche is Gamache
    Coliacovo is Colaiacovo
    92 games is 82 games

  26. chanman says:

    Great catch making note that they OWNED THE 8TH AND FINAL PLAYOFF SPOT.
    8 GAMES IN?!

    Can we stop this worthless leafs talk HTR? Anyone notice there are OTHER TEAMS playing hockey too?

  27. nordiques100 says:

    92 games = 82 last year + 10 this year

  28. leafy_luca says:

    sorry….i wasnt sure if you meant that or not…good article though but seriously man leafs are in trouble….thats the bottom line

  29. Shorts_Pimp says:

    Ya, but who cares about them?

  30. nordiques100 says:

    haha well they posted just 1 of the two i wrote. i had another argument that goes the other way. where the leafs need major wholesale change. i wanted to see what both sides of the story would bring in terms of opinion.

  31. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    ok, whats your definition of shut down. mine is the wingers cover the boards, and the d crumbles everytime the puck comes close to the blueline. defensemen who play that style cannot score much.

    the more aggressive defense wil see the d pump the puck around the boards and pinch a bit to keep the puck in the zone. Things that detroit does very successfully. Detroit very rarely plays shut down style, as they are such a dominant puck control team. However, defensemen on Minnesota, Montreal, New Jersey will play shut down style.

    The leafs defensemen are not suited for this syle. they are suited for a more passive defensive game. where they keep the puck in front of them, and in the attack zone as much as possible. However, thus far they have done a terrible job executing this, causing opposition rushes and a dreadful transition game alltogether.

  32. nordiques100 says:

    nobody write any. thats the problem man. when i posted this it said one article waiting for submission. i bet you that was the tavares one. …also  leaf related.  if no  one  writes anything else, you cant really post it right?

    so blame the fans of those teams if they dont want to talk about their team.

  33. senators101 says:

    I dont think you are understanding what I'm saying.

    Fine, the leafs d aren't that type of defense.  But instead of having battaglia, kilger, and co. on the checking line, grab a couple forwards like maltby, draper, etc, to slow down teams big lines.  Its only 1 of the 4 lines that have to do this.  the other three lines can play the way they are playing.  They simply need a line to defend big scoring units.

  34. BLUE_AND_WHITE says:

    you're saying throw a pahlson, moen, niedermayer line out there.

    The Leafs have zero forwards who play like that, and the maltby's and maddens of the world aren't easy to come by 10 games into the season.

  35. bishop7979x says:

    Yes they score as a team, and as a team they were about 50 goals behind the leader in the NHL last seaon, tying them for 8th, but they were still, when they year was over, the only team in the top 10 to be outscored.  This team isnt really that much better this year than last, and with tucker hurt, they may not be better this year with the loss of his production for a prolonged period of time. 

    Besides, production for guys like chad kilger should be a bonus, not something to be counted on.  if your top 6 forwards and top 2 defenders cant keep up with the rest of the top teams in the league then the leafs are in trouble because they dont have the defense to play like jersey and win games 2-1 or 3-2, they have to have guys that, game in and game out, can be counted on to produce, and i dont see it.  sorry.

  36. FlamingHomer says:

    …..and 3,516 goals against.

  37. rojoke says:

    But the parade route has been set out and everything.

  38. leafy says:

    My thoughts on the game: Leafs 5, Penguins 2

    Needless to say, I'm happy tonight.

    I don't understand this team.  One night they look like the '74 Capitals, then the next night, they look like contenders.

    Amazing how an infusion of speed and youth can help.

    This Tlusty kid looks like something.  Maybe the next Sundin?

    His 2nd goal brought back memories of Mike Bossy.  Pouring down the wing at high speed and firing a perfect laser risk shot to the top corner.

    Steen was also excellent with 3 points.  Antropov was dangerous as always.  Sundin had an off night by his standards.

    But Gill really stood out as a horse on the defence, especially while short-handed.  He seemed to be in two places at once.

    Overall, a great effort.  Amazing how good defence combined with solid goaltending can stop even one of the most potent lines in the NHL.

  39. senators101 says:

    I am saying put a line like that out there.  Peca should been re-signed.  Mike Johnson was available for about 700k 2 weeks ago.  Find a third and all of a sudden, there's a line.

  40. leafy says:

    My thoughts on the game: Leafs 4, Rangers 1

    Needless to say, I'm happy yet again.

    Finally we see some semblance of a good hockey team.

    Pohl had his best game of the season.  In fact, the entire 4th line was dangerous offensively and responsible in their own end.  Impressive.

    Love the "kid line" – Steen, Stajan and Tlusty.

    Antropov…excellent yet again.

    Most importantly – Toskala held his team in the game early on until the Leafs found their legs.  He gave the team a chance to win.  Surprise, surprise!

    Amazing what happens when you combine good defensive play with solid goaltending.

    Please keep it up, boys.

  41. leafy says:

    My thoughts on the game: Leafs 4, Rangers 1

    Needless to say, I'm happy yet again.

    Finally we see some semblance of a good hockey team.

    Pohl had his best game of the season.  In fact, the entire 4th line was dangerous offensively and responsible in their own end.  Impressive.

    Love the "kid line" – Steen, Stajan and Tlusty.

    Antropov…excellent yet again.

    Most importantly – Toskala held his team in the game early on until the Leafs found their legs.  He gave the team a chance to win.  Surprise, surprise!

    Amazing what happens when you combine good defensive play with solid goaltending.

    Please keep it up, boys.

  42. jarcpitre says:

    I'm sure the critics will be shut up for a few nights. The Leafs played an awesome road game tonight. The shots were in favor of the Rangers, but there were alot of poor outside shots. It was a pretty even game, but the Leafs know how to put the puck in the net. We have Washington coming up now and I hope the trend continues. Good all around game.

  43. leafy says:

    I have to hand it to you.  You were one of those few people who said the Leafs will turn it around.

    I predicted a 100 point season when the year started, but then was disheartened by the team's play before this road trip.  But now we see them coming together.

    Hopefully we can play as well at home as on the road.

  44. jarcpitre says:

    I was hanging in there. They have the talent and alot of team speed. If you noticed the last few games, they are taking away the neutral zone and the D aren’t pitching unless the puck is deep. I just hope that Tucker and McCabe are picking up a few things to help their game.

  45. leafy says:

    Indeed, the past 2 games were very encouraging.  The D is playing much more conservatively and the forwards are more positionally sound.

    Clearly this is not the same team that lost to Atlanta.

    Not we just have to replicate this in home games.

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