The Toronto Maple Leafs started off the season drastically different from last year. Winning the first four games is a great way to put some money in the bank for tougher times, something that coach Ron Wilson himself stated to the media.
"We're happy we got off to this start, especially in our division," Wilson said when asked about the Leafs great start. "This is money in the bank for us when we hit hard times."
Who knew those hard times would come only a month later?
The Leafs were on fire to start the season but after being reminded of the past, the Leafs decided to honour last year's team. In 2009-2010, the team only won one of their first nine starts. In tribute, this year's Leafs took upon themselves to win only one in nine games early in the season.
After losing the past two games in the shootout, the Leafs have lost two valuable points that would have them sitting at seventh spot in the eastern conference opposed to eleventh. Though it could be worse, it's not like the Leafs have had shootout troubles in the past...
The key differences between the team that went went 4-0 and the current team is decision making. Bad decisions by both the coaching staff and veteran players are causing the Leafs to fail. After a strong performance against Buffalo on Saturday night, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin were shoe-ins for the shootout. Correction, apparently the lacklustre play of Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel showed Wilson that they were going to have a better shootout.
Wilson had already made some important decisions earlier in the game. With two minutes left, Wilson sent out the crackdown line of Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and Kessel to ensure the Leafs held on to their lead. Then after a quick shift by the alleged top line, the shot-blocking, shutdown line of Kulemin, Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur were sent out.
Unfortunately, for some reason both lines had trouble with defensive zone coverage and blocking shots...weird?
Wilson also decided that putting out a defense pairing that had yet to play together this season would be a wise choice.While Luke Schenn was told to watch his man and get into shooting lanes, Francois Beauchemin was given the job of screening Giguere while leaving his man free for a tap in—which apparently works much better in practice due to the Leafs forwards inability to find the twine.
With coaching staff and veterans continuing to make the same horrible decisions, the Leafs biggest problem isn't their lack of scoring—it's the ability of the team to make smart choices. How many more times can the Leafs be out-coached and have alleged veterans make rookie mistakes before changes are made?