Leafs' D deadly at both ends of rink

The Maple Leafs’ group is not only helping to keep the puck out of the net, to the tune of 27 goals against in 14 games in 2012, but also is adept at contributing at the other end.

Leafs defencemen, led by captain Dion Phaneuf’s 30 points, have accounted for 119 points in 2011-12, third most in the National Hockey League behind the Ottawa Senators (127) and the Vancouver Canucks (123).

Last season, when the Leafs missed the playoffs yet again, their defencemen totalled 109 points.

There’s a lot more happening with the blue-line group than simply thrusting themselves into the play and hoping something good happens.

“Nowadays, you have to have five guys (on the attack),” coach Ron Wilson said after practice on Sunday afternoon at the MasterCard Centre. “People back-check hard. If you don’t have the defence involved, then it’s three-on-four, three-on-five. We’re fortunate we can have (at least) four guys involved in the play. That really helps a lot.”

It also helps that for the past couple of games, Wilson has had the luxury of seven healthy defencemen. That has meant that Mike Komisarek has been a healthy scratch the past two games (and will be again when the Leafs play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night) but also that Wilson can keep the pairs he wants together. Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson are the shut-down pair, John-Michael Liles is partnered with Cody Franson and the smooth-skating Jake Gardiner is with the defensive-minded Luke Schenn.

The Leafs’ transition game has been more fluid with Liles back after recovering from a concussion. His ability to the move the puck, in Wilson’s mind, has spread confidence to the other defencemen that they can do the same.


9 Responses to Leafs' D deadly at both ends of rink

  1. Vicks_Prick_Leafs says:

    i love the kid, i think he's an offensive beast. but he's a defensive clusterfu(k.
    send Gardiner down to the minors, where he can play constantly and learn how defense is played in a man's league. i swear to god this guys bodychecks resember a tickle fight.

    i restate again, i love him and he's a blue chipper. but if defense is our strength, and i think it is. send him down, and bring Aulie up, to spike our team up for a tough playoff push.

  2. reinjosh says:

    Why in the world would we send him down? He's third in ice time among all rookies, he's top 15 in points among rookies (tops among rookie dman), tied for 5th among rookies for plus/minus and he's tops on our team for plus/minus which is impressive, him being a rookie and all and getting top 4 time.

    Sending him to the minors makes absolutely no sense. None. He's too good for the AHL already and the simply clue to that is that he's a top 4 dman on the Leafs right now and he's playing more than good enough to stay. 
    We already have Schenn and Komisarek as tough dman, adding Aulie is negligible. 
  3. toronto77 says:

    I think he and Schenn work well off of each other. Schenn is pretty good defensively but has the potential to create the most turn overs of any defencemen on the team, Gardiner is great at clearing the zone and moving the puck up ice. When Liles is not on the ice, it's great to rely on Gardiner, so most of the game you have a great puck moving d-man. In the defensive zone, Gardiner has the speed to get to the puck before the opposing team and has the skill to protect the puck and make a first pass or carry it out. For what physicality Gardiner lacks, Schenn can make up for it.

  4. NonLeafFansAreGay says:

    Man, no offence dude, but what you just said was pretty dumb and makes zero sense.

  5. LeafsFTW17 says:

    They do make a good pair.  You can tell that when Schenn doesn't know what to do with the puck he just gives it to Gardiner.  It works out well too because they chase Schenn and then he just shovels it off to Gardiner who can get up the ice quickly and cause a hard 4 man rush.

  6. Vicks_Prick_Leafs says:

    i'll reply to Josh's answer cause at least "debates" opinions.
    devils advocate

  7. Vicks_Prick_Leafs says:

    i agree with most people on here, i thought of this idea since we have too many good dman that can't be sent down, some thought should be brought into it. i'd like to trade one of our logjam Dman, then that'd work out for him.
    but i am also critical of his physical play, hasn't anyone watched him with critical/judgement eyes? if you do you will see yes he's great at the first pass and his poise. but when he gets forechecked in the boards he's easily outmuscled. i want to see that aspect of his play to improve.
    and i think come playoff time, if we meet the bruins, i want as much muscle out there as possible.
    but… Gardiner is AN AMAZING OFF DMAN

  8. reinjosh says:

    He isn't physical, this is true. But he isn't here to play physical. That's why he's paired with a guy like Schenn. Gardiner just doesn't play that game and he never will. Having him sent down because of that isn't a smart move. Not only is it potentially demoralizing to him (given how well he's played), but it's trying to force him to play a role he know how to play nor has the tools to play properly. 

    He's an offensive dman primarily and he shouldn't be forced to play a defensive dman's role. He will learn in time how to play a game that improves his defense and in a way that won't require him to through his body around in a potentially harmful way (Liles is a huge teacher for him in that regard). 
    And sending him to the AHL won't improve his muscle. He will be playing against less talented opposition, less powerful players. If anything, his best avenue to improve is continue to play against big powerful opposition in the NHL. 
    Were not trying to make a Cup run right now so we don't really need to worry about losing a playoff round IMO. The best place for Gardiner to learn how to be an NHL dman and to learn how to play against big strong NHL players, is in my opinion the NHL. If he had struggled to play in the NHL, I would have one hundred percent agreed with you. But he hasn't and sending him to the AHL really won't improve him. 
  9. Vicks_Prick_Leafs says:

    thanks for your "debate" reply Josh. we disagree on some fundamentals and aspects, but i respect your viewpoint.

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