5 Burning Questions the Toronto Maple Leafs Must Answer Early in 2013 Season
Four games in to the season and the Toronto Maple Leafs still have more question marks on them than The Riddler's underwear, and a fan base that is looking for answers from the men at the highest level.
They have shown a bit of the good, the bad and the ugly in their season so far, with ugly being the latest mask to show last night in a loss to the New York Islanders.
Here are five burning questions the Leafs must answer early in this season.
1. Are the Green NHL'ers Ready to Emerge
It's about time the Leafs have turned over the roster to a younger, up and coming group of prospects and give them a chance to grow. With all due respect, I am tired of the Tim Connolly's, Colby Armstrong's and Matt Lombardi's ending up in the blue and white. The question is, will the AHL all stars lead them to last place at the end of the year, or will they keep it close? Either way they will be better for it.
So far, the new and younger players such as Nazem Kadri, Matt Frattin, Mike Kostka and Jake Gardiner have performed better than some of the veterans. If they can maintain a consistently strong level of play, than the Leafs will prove that the cupboards are indeed stocked stronger than they have been in a long time.
2. Are They Leaving the Net to Reimer and Scrivens Duo?
This question is as old as the Big Burkie hot dog that you get down at the ACC but it is still left out there in the air. I am not sure if James Reimer and Ben Scrivens can get the Leafs into the dance when all is said and done, but do they really want to wait and find out?
The sooner they make that decision the sooner Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins can sleep at night because he should get Scrivens back in his net. Reimer can grow as a back up, and a veteran goalie and potential leader can come in and win this young team some games.
I'm not sure Roberto Luongo is the answer solely based on his atrocious contract, but there must be someone else out there to consider.
3. Is This Roster Capable of Playing Cohesive and Committed Defense?
The Leafs looked very calm and cohesive defensively in the first three games this season before the circus returned for one against the Isles. Head coach Randy Calryle's defensive reputation and pedigree are top notch, and signs have already rubbed off on the troops
There is really nowhere to go but up for the Leafs in this regard, and the light at the end of the tunnel is that the issue is not really the players. It was a system (or lack there of) issue, so with tweaking there is hope. Players like Mike Komisarek and Dion Phaneuf are veterans who have worked tirelessly to improve their play. That combined with a calm coach and system will improve things immensely.
4. Is There a True Leader and Star on This Team?
The Maple Leafs? Anyone? Anyone? Is it really captain Dion Phaneuf, or Phil Kessel?
Will the real true star and leader of the team please stand up.
Joffrey Lupul seemed to be the one who would carry that title before injures derailed that train late last season and now this one. When times get dark and tough in the season and in each game, your best payer needs to step up and dictate the outcome with either skill or will.
You can say it's leadership by committee on some teams and that works, but the Leafs are badly in need of that one true general to initiate the charge through tough times.
5. Burke Gone; Is Carlyle the New Face of the Team?
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It has been pretty evident that Randy Carlyle is the man in charge since the first day of the Leafs shortened camp this year. He holds court and throws no b/s or bluster at the crowd that stands in his face.
It is in my opinion, the way that leadership should be. While there are many ways to skin a cat, Carlyle has a no nonsense style while his predecessor was the opposite of the scale.
It appears that the players have bought in and are ready to follow his lead and that is probably the best news that Leaf nation could hear early in this season.