Don’t look now Toronto Maple Leaf fans, but your beloved Buds (you know, the team that got off to such a good start this season) is now in a position that is all too familiar for management and fans alike: a lottery position, a.k.a 25th spot.
As Maple Leaf fans always seem to do, the 2009-10 season in which the Leafs pooped the bed on more nights than not, was forgiven over the summer.
Fans of the Blue and White have an uncanny ability to forgive and forget—an ability that, in the eyes of many NHL fans, is laughable.
Heading into the 2010-11 season, expectations were high for our beloved Buds. Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke made several key additions late last season (Dion Phaneuf, J.S. Giguere, etc.), which gave fans hope that this team was finally turning the corner into a respectable team.
The additions of Colby Armstrong (currently injured), Kris Versteeg (doing his best “invisible man” impression) and Brett Lebda (another invisible man) were seen as tremendous acquisitions, but it has been the “lesser lights”—Clarke MacArthur, Tim Brent and Mike Brown—that have been the more consistent/more effective performers thus far.
To win in the NHL, your best players have to be your best players on more nights than not. Simply put, that is not the case in Toronto right now and it’s time the GM and coaching staff called a few of these underachievers out.
I have already written about Dion Phaneuf’s struggles, now you can add the likes of Tyler Bozak, Mike Komisarek, Kris Versteeg and, dare I say it, Phil Kessel to the list.
Don’t get me wrong, in mentioning Kessel I am fully aware that opposing teams are focusing on shutting him down. That said, great players find a way to produce scoring regardless of the attention. Kessel has now failed to register a goal in seven straight games.
Mike Komisarek looks slow and is hardly worth the kind of money Burke is paying him. He is a shadow of the player he once was in Montreal and while I can sympathize with the hulking defenseman for having a sore shoulder, it’s time to put up or move on (not like anyone would take him).
Kris Vertseeg, you know, the player everyone thought was going to score 30 goals this season? Yeah, he is completely snake bitten, unable to score and unable to be the player we all thought/hoped he would be.
Tyler Bozak has been given the job (fairly or unfairly) of first line centre with the Maple Leafs. Simply put, he is not a first line player.
He is in way over his head and it’s time for the organization to stop kidding themselves in thinking that he is capable of getting the job done. He’s not, end of story, move on.
Ron Wilson and the rest of his coaching staff seems incapable of getting through to their troops.
As it stands right now, the Leafs are ranked 29th in scoring (2.13), 13th in goals against (2.67), 27th on the power play (11.1 percent) and 26th on the penalty kill (76.5 percent). Oh yeah, and did I mention they are currently sitting in 25th place?
As a Maple Leaf fan, it all leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The numbers are all too familiar. The effort (or lack thereof) is all too familiar, and the end result brings back visions of the movie Groundhog Day.
In the past, many media outlets have shunned Coach Wilson for calling players out in the media, but maybe this time they will understand if Wilson lashes out. Maybe it’s time the coach and the GM went ballistic?
Clearly, while it is very tough to pull off trades in the cap era, Burke needs to find a way to pull off another miracle. A trade of substance in badly needed, sooner rather than later.
The chemistry on the ice simply is not there. The player’s penchant for giving up early goals, followed by their inability to respond is laughable, as is the overall lack of results.
Let’s face it, Leaf fans: The on-ice product is (once again) terrible and there is no indication that it is going to change for the better, not with this crew and perhaps not with this coaching staff.
As good as Ron Wilson’s resume is (and I will get plenty of argument there), he has done nothing to improve this team this season—the season that many deemed he finally had the soldiers on the ice to produce the desired result, a.k.a. “winning.”
The bottom line? Changes are needed in Leafland, without which we Leaf fans are in for another long, ugly season and that’s no lie.
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