Does Maurice Have It Wrong?

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Does Maurice Have It Wrong?

Icon Sports MediaWe all know the job of a coach is to prepare their players to win. 

Some coaches excel at getting their players to adapt to a certain style of play much like Ken Hitchcock has done this year in Columbus.

Some coaches, on the other hand, do not.

Bob Hartley has already been fired in Atlanta for failing to win; John Tortorella appears to sitting in the hot seat in Tampa Bay as his team's inconsistency causes concern; many teams through out the league are off to so called slow starts, who's to blame?

In Boston, Claude Julien (fired abruptly by Lou Lamoriello last year) has taken the Bruins from the basement in the North East Division, to as of now, a playoff team.

Coaching can bring a team success, but it can also be the cause of failure.

In terms of the Toronto Maple Leafs and coach Paul Maurice, a witty, well-spoken man, there just doesn't seem to be an ability to get his team turned around: playing consistent in any area on the ice.

You only have to look at the team's record, goals against, powerplay %, short-handed goals against, 3rd period goals against... you get it, but the one area that I'm disappointed with is the line combinations.

Defensively the combinations simply put aren't working. All pairings on the ice make Jason Blake look all that much faster, and I'm actually starting to miss Bryan McCabe. Although Andy Wozniewsky seemed like a hard-nosed, stand-up defenseman he really has been slow and average (if not worse). Let's all remember when Vermette blew by Kaberle to shoot low glove side on Raycroft - it's just off - and by the time Carlo Colaiacovo is healthy it may be too late.

Offensively Anrtropov has been a surprise. But short lived. His linemates Kilger, and Devereaux lack the offensive flare needed to help him provide secondary scoring. Sundin, and Blake have not mixed well. Blake is a player who uses his speed with the puck, takes it to the net, and creates scoring chances off the wing. Sundin plays from the half boards in behind the net in a cycle game and yet those two are out on the same shift?

Players are due back in the line-up tonight for the game against Ottawa, and Paul Maurice had these lines, or similar to, skating together in practise:

1) Ponikarovsky     Sundin     Blake

2) Devereaux     Antropov     Kilger    

3) Bell     Wellwood     Pohl

4) Tlusty     Stajan     Steen 

Does Maurice have it wrong? Chemistry-wise this looks like a disaster. I'd much rather see players on the same line that can use each other's strengths to illuminate their own:

1) Bell/Antropov     Sundin     Blake

2) Ponikarovsky    Wellwood     Antropov/Bell

3) Tlusty     Stajan     Steen      

4) Devereaux     Kilger     Battaglia/Pohl/Gamache

1) Sundin's line has the size and speed to cycle, make plays off the rush with Blake (he's a tough fit in this line-up) and have either Bell, or Antropov creating space behind the net as well as in front.

2) Wellwood surrounded by size only makes sense. He's a play maker who cannot win battles for the puck when it's dumped in - leave that to his big wingers who will get him the puck in the corners and go to the net for a pass.

3) These youngsters have chemistry. They cycle well together and have assisted on each other's goals on a regular basis. Defensively they get each other the puck off the half boards in their own zone well, and start transition smoothly.

4) Last year these crash-and-bangers looked good most of the time. The occasional goal inflated the crowd, and Kilger's forechecking was a great way to give the 'big line' a rest, or just grind down the opposition's defense, put them out with a solid pair of defenseman, and they'd be a tenacious checking line.

Thoughts, debate, alternatives welcomed.

Thanks for reading! TL.

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