They say winning is a process, a process that has no time limit and rarely comes easy—such is the case for our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thursday night the Maple Leafs took on the rebuilding Edmonton Oilers in a game that was supposed to see the Buds emerge victorious. Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way as the Maple Leafs took it on the chin by a final score of 5-0. On home ice no less!
The Oilers, who entered the game tied with the Maple Leafs with 20 points on the season, overtook the Leafs with tonight’s win, and now sit two points ahead of the Blue and White—a feat thought all but impossible at the beginning of the season.
Remember all the high-praise for Brian Burke over the summer? Remember all the excitement surrounding the new acquisitions? Man, how I long for September!
Averaging a total of 3.71 goals against per game, the Oilers are the proud owners of the NHL’s worst defense. At 67.4 percent on the season. Edmonton also own the worst penalty kill in the league and yet the Maple Leafs (who had six power play opportunities on the night) were unable to score on this defensively challenged squad.
So, with no goals on the night and the 28th ranked offense on the season, how can we possibly be upbeat about our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs?
Recently, some Maple Leaf fans have been critical of my writing, suggesting I am far too negative, with some even going so far as to suggest that I should take a vacation from writing.
Well, I am here to tell ya, I ain’t going anywhere, and neither are the Maple Leafs (not right now anyway) and if you cannot handle that, so be it!
Last season the Maple Leafs had a winning percentage of .451 which earned them a 29th spot in the standings. This season the team has a .435 winning percentage good enough for (drum-roll please) 28th place overall.
Now, the optimist may try to point out that 28th is better than 29th, but it is hardly the results we were expecting, and given the fact that the winning percentage is actually down, the argument simply doesn’t hold water.
Last season Toronto’s power play had a success rate of 74.6 percent, which ranked them 30th overall. The penalty kill was equally inept (30th overall), coming in at a 14.0 percent success rate.
Fast forward to the quarter mark of the 2010-11 season and the results are eerily similar.
The Maple Leafs power play currently operates at 15.6 percent (with the benefit of four power play goals in one game against the Nashville Predators) while the penalty kill sits at 73.6 percent.
Where is the Maple Leafs overall offense? This season the team is averaging 2.22 goals per game, down from last seasons 2.56 goals scored per game. That’s right, the Leafs are actually worse offensively than last season—wasn’t this crew supposed to be better?
I don’t know about you, but suddenly I really miss Nik Hagman!
The only positive seems to be the fact that the Leafs are averaging less goals against, but in the end it has not afforded them better results in the standings and given the fact that they just gave up five goals to the lowly Oilers (who own the 16th ranked offense) I am not so sure what it all means.
In the end I am not so sure the defense has improved (check out those PK numbers again), rather the goaltenders have bailed their team out night after night. So, if anyone deserves any credit it is J.S. Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson, not really the defense which leads the NHL in giveaways.
For Toronto fans, the results, power play, penalty kill, offense and overall compete level of the team remind many of the movie Ground Hog Day—or in this case, same “stuff”, different season.
So, in the face of all the negative results, poor numbers and ongoing suspect effort, how could anyone suggest I am being too negative?
Sorry Leaf fans, as the saying goes, “it is what it is” and no matter how you try to skew the numbers or point to the absence of Dion Phaneuf and Colby Armstrong as justification for the poor results the, fact remains that this team is in trouble.
Until next time,