Bad Habits Toronto Maple Leafs Stars Need to Drop in 2013-14
NHL stars are often great because they continue to work at their games. Rarely are they satisfied with all areas of their play.
Sidney Crosby is a great example of this. He is now one of the best faceoff men in the NHL. This was not something that came naturally to Crosby; he had to work at it. With puck possession such a key part of attacking in today’s league, this is important on both an individual and a team level.
Going back a few years, Steve Yzerman was not always a complete player. When he first entered the league, he was an offensive dynamo. But because of his offensive gifts, his defensive zone coverage was not what it needed to be. He worked on this part of the game for years, and by the time he was in his late 20s, Yzerman was one of the better defensive forwards in the game and led the Wings to multiple Stanley Cups.
So it is with the Toronto Maple Leafs' brightest lights. There is no question that the Leafs are on the upswing and should be a threat to make the playoffs in 2013-14—and if their stars improve on last year’s performances, with a little luck, they could be a dark horse to win the Eastern Conference.
Here are five Leaf stars and the bad habits they need to break in 2013-14.
All regular stats are from NHL.com
Advanced stats can be found at Behind the Net.
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Bad Habit: Reverts to his junior moves occasionally
Nazem Kadri is on the cusp of being not just a star, but an NHL superstar.
He has puck skills that few have, and with his obvious dedication to the professional game, there is every reason to believe that Kadri could become a consistent top-10 scorer in the league for years to come.
While Kadri has rid himself of this habit, he does revert to his junior moves occasionally, particularly in the neutral and defensive zones. His creativity should be allowed to blossom in the offensive zone. However, he remains prone to giveaways at inopportune times when he holds onto the puck for too long.
Against lesser competition, it was rarely a problem. But at the NHL level, given the size and speed of his opponents, the dipsy-doodling, especially in a low gear, just doesn’t cut it.
James van Riemsdyk
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Bad Habit: Forgetting he’s a premier power forward
James van Riemsdyk has all kinds of talent.
Outside of last season’s playoffs, JVR’s Relative Corsi number has been positive over the past five years. He was an even 6.00 in the 2013 regular season. He had 18 goals last season and earned 32 points in 48 games.
These are solid numbers in most ways for van Riemsdyk. But with his size and strength, he needs to play even more of a power game.
He had 32 penalty minutes last year. While advocating for more penalties isn’t often a tonic for what ails a player, driving to the net and crashing and banging in front of the net has to happen more often. If he gets a few more penalties, so be it. More goals and assists are also sure to come given his soft hands and his ability to create in tight spaces.
JVR has the physical tools to be one of the best power forwards in the NHL. He needs to remind himself of that constantly.
Given how tough the new Atlantic Division will be, the Leafs need him to be a force on every shift.
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Bad Habit: A streaky scorer
Phil Kessel is one of the best offensive players in the game. He finished eighth in NHL scoring with 52 points last year.
He takes a lot of shots, but what he needs to do more is score consistently.
Kessel can disappear not only for a few shifts, but for an entire game. Both Kessel and Kadri will be counted on to be the top scorers for the team, and Kessel has to ensure that he shows up consistently.
As the Leafs continue to improve, Kessel won’t have to do this all on his own. Opposing teams will have to concern themselves with new threat David Clarkson, who had 15 goals in last year’s shortened season.
If Phil can light the lamp with greater consistency, his next contract should be one of the richer ones in the NHL.
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Bad Habit: Being in the wrong place at the wrong time
The Fort Saskatchewan native continues to be plagued by bad luck. While the former Medicine Hat Tiger is a gifted goal scorer, at other times, he is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Last year, Lupul was struck just above the wrist by a Dion Phaneuf slap shot that broke his arm. In 2012, he was hit from behind by Boston's David Krejci and separated his shoulder. The list goes on from here.
The point is that Lupul is like that friend most of us have had in our lives. Lupul is that friend who broke an arm or a leg more than once as a kid. He’s the person that always seemed to get caught when everyone else got away scot-free when pulling a prank in high school. You get the picture.
Not just Leaf fans want to see him do well by trying to stay out of harm’s way moving forward, as he’s such a likeable guy. A healthy and contributing Lupul could go a long way in moving the Leafs into the NHL’s elite in the next season or two.
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Bad Habit: Trying to do too much
Dion Phaneuf has been a favorite whipping boy for many fans. Having watched Phaneuf on several occasions playing his junior hockey in Red Deer with the Rebels, and now throughout his very good pro career, one bad habit that continues to plague his game is trying to do too much.
Quite simply, Phaneuf fails to make the basic play and attempts the spectacular when the simple would do.
Whether it’s moving the puck out of his own end through the middle, taking the body when there’s really no need, or pinching unnecessarily in the offensive zone, “discretion is the better part of valour” should be Phaneuf’s guiding mantra.
A lot of this stems from Phaneuf being a passionate and confident player. He firmly believes that what he attempts will work.
While it is challenging to address such an ingrained and well-established quality, doing so could make Phaneuf an even more highly rated candidate for Canada’s Olympic team in Sochi.