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Toronto Maple Leafs: Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek and Phil Kessel's Struggles

Can Phaneuf be the catalyst to turn around a season that's almost lost?
Can Phaneuf be the catalyst to turn around a season that's almost lost?Abelimages/Getty Images
Cale LoneyCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2010

The Toronto Maple Leafs, Phil Kessel, Mike Komisarek and Dion Phaneuf all have one thing in common: they are struggling (if you Google struggling, the lead Google news article is actually about the struggling Leafs).

For Phaneuf, it's the pressure of a season with a less than stellar offensive output and coming back to a team that's been mired in a large slump. A slump that ironically enough, came when Phaneuf and Colby Armstrong went down with injuries.

For Phil Kessel, his predictability on the ice has been a large contributor to his recent slump. Scoring just three times in his past 20 games, Kessel is having a hard go.

However, this is certainly nothing new for Kessel who has been known to be a streaky scorer.

How familiar is the following: Kessel streaks in with two Leafs with him, he does a dangle to beat the defenceman inside, he half beats him, then passes at the last second because there is no shot and it's turned over.

Ironically enough, one way to help Kessel score is for him to pass more. If the goalie has to worry about him passing, he may edge towards the recipient.

Opposed to right now, where goalies can be about 99 percent sure Kessel is going to shoot. It's about keeping goalies and defencemen honest, and mixing things up.

Who knows? Maybe the puck will bounce of one of Kessel's linemates and into the net.

After repeated calls on Andy Frost's post-game Leafs Talk on Wednesday night, Mike Komisarek was finally scratched. Apparently, Komisarek injured himself fighting, sound familiar?

Yeah, it is the same way Komisarek originally injured his shoulder in a lop-sided match up against Milan Lucic. If you will remember that actually occurred when Komisarek was with the Montreal Canadians. This time it's a hand injury that will keep him out seven to ten days.

Many Leaf fans expressed their dissatisfaction with Komisarek's play on Frost's show. In 61 games, the injury-prone defenceman has just 11 points and is minus 12. 

In addition, Komisarek's ice-time this season has been limited, averaging just under 16 minutes on the season.  Which may be due in part to his penchant for his outstanding playmaking skills that set up the opposing teams' forwards perfectly. 

Unfortunately for Leaf fans, Komisarek isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Part of his ridiculous five year, $4.5 mil a year deal is a limited no-trade clause and a no-movement clause. 

The no-trade clause ensures he helps control where he goes and the no-movement ensures he cannot be waived. Not the best negotiated contract by Brian Burke and Co.

For Leaf fans, the captain is bearing a large load of the criticism. With only five points in 12 games, many are pointing to Phaneuf's cap hit as an indicator of what they expect from him.

One thing to keep in mind however, is that rarely do players match career highs on bad teams.

That said, everyone on the team needs to do better for the Leafs to have any success. Even if that success comes from a trade, the Leafs still need to have some wins for players to have value.

Leafs Nation is in for another long year, but hopefully it isn't all for naught. 

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