Going into the game, the Leafs had taken nine out of a possible 12 points in six games, while the Canadiens had lost three in a row.
Following the game, Leafs fans had to deal with the fact that their team had just been shut out by a depleted roster. The Canadiens were missing two key players in Michael Cammalleri and Hal Gill, not to mention Andrei Markov, who is out for the season.
The loss marked Toronto’s second shutout defeat to Montreal and their eighth overall this season. Prior to the game, Leafs fans were optimistic, given the recent play of their team. However, uninspired and dismal play returned, and the ugly side of the Maple Leafs came out resulting in another defeat.
The points can be made up if the Leafs can salvage the remaining two games of their three-game road trip, but is that enough?
Fans of the Blue and White deserve consistency, and it’s about time they begin to demand it.
The Leafs have the ability to play a hard, fast, offensive style. They have shown signs of brilliance and have even, on occasion, played with truculence, belligerence, tenacity and testosterone.
Brian Burke has put together a decent team that can win; the players are not the problem—the coach is.
Ron Wilson came to Toronto as one of the elite defensive coaches in the NHL, but seemingly refuses to implement the necessary defensive strategy for the Leafs to be successful. Granted in San Jose, Wilson had a solid group of players, but that’s a poor excuse.
The Leafs began the season with, what Burke proclaimed, was one of the strongest defensive groups in the NHL. Wilson has been provided the tools for success but has been unable to achieve results.
As far as the forwards go, other than the Grabovski, Kulemin, MacArthur line, Wilson has been unable to find chemistry. Far be it for fans to speculate the reasons why chemistry has largely eluded the Leafs, but maybe, it’s because Wilson changes the lines almost every game.
Is it any wonder that the Leafs best line is a tandem that has played together nearly the entire season?
Wilson has also publicly ridiculed his players, albeit, indirectly through the media. Take his most recent comments towards Phil Kessel for example. In response to criticism about a lack of communications with his sniper, Wilson claimed that Kessel didn't want to talk, and also said that he does not take time to work on his scoring in practices.
Is it not the job of the coach to support his players rather than ridicule them?
The situation may have been blown slightly out of proportion by the media-enthralled spectacle that follows the Leafs, but it was bad enough that Burke had to meet separately with Wilson and Kessel to tell them to work out their issues.
To Wilson’s credit, he has come to the defence of his players on numerous occasions, and many Leafs seem to push the fact that coaching is not responsible for the team’s struggles.
For my money, however, coaching is the reason for the Leafs uninspired and inconsistent play.
History shows us that hockey teams keep any dislike for the coaching staff within the dressing room in order to avoid unwanted media attention—which I think most accurately describes the Leafs current situation.
History also shows us that coaching changes can often alter a teams fortunes. For example, look no further back than the Pittsburgh Penguins, who went from a dysfunctional team under Michel Therrien to a Stanley Cup winner under Dan Balysma.
Or for a comparison of similar proportions, look at the most recent surge of the New Jersey Devils, who continue to push towards the playoffs following a coaching change that brought in Jacques Lemaire.
It’s true, the Maple Leafs may continue to struggle this season even if coaching changes were to take place, but the only way to assess this team going forward is to see how the players perform under different leadership.
Speculations aside, the Leafs play well sporadically, and a coaching change may be what fans need to fully gauge the true potential of their team.
Unfortunately, Burke has publicly stated many times that he will not fire Wilson. This is bad enough for Leafs fans but just imagine how the players feel.
Burke, fire Wilson so Leafs Nation can see if their team has any real potential!
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