For the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it appears as if their beloved Buds will be on the outside looking in when the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around.
While a few key players stand out, there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to determining why the Blue and White will be missing the playoffs...again!
Let's take a look at the top 10 reasons the Maple Leafs will not be playing in this years playoffs...
When the 2010-11 season began, just about every Maple Leaf fan felt it was only a matter of time until Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson would overtake J.S. Giguere as the Blue and White’s number one goaltender.
Instead, Gustavsson struggled all season long, while Giguere was equally inept on more nights than not.
If not for the spirited efforts of rookie goaltender James Reimer down the stretch, the Buds would be a lot worse off than their 2.99 goals against average—which ranks them 25th overall.
The Maple Leafs finished the 2009-10 season with the 30th ranked penalty kill (74.6 percent) and 30th ranked power play (14.0 percent).
Clearly, given the Buds finished the season with the two worst special teams in the entire, NHL the only way to go was up—question was, how far could they climb?
Through 76 games, the Maple Leafs own the 25th ranked power play at 15.7 percent and the 27th ranked penalty kill at 77.6 percent.
While the Leafs have improved their special teams statistically, few players are bragging about their efforts.
Truth be told, the Maple Leafs are still amongst the league's laughingstocks when it comes to special teams—an area that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson must address next season in a big way if they plan on making the playoffs.
The Maple Leafs currently sit 24th overall in scoring with an average of 2.59 goals per game.
Even more pathetic is the fact that the Buds have been shutout a total of 10 times this season—which has to be up there in the inept department.
Sure, Mikhail Grabovski (28), Nikolai Kulemin (28) and Phil Kessel (29) have all had very good offensive seasons. That said, outside of Clarke MacArthur (20), no other Maple Leaf will hit the 20 goal mark.
The secondary scoring, or lack thereof, led to many losses this season, as did the Maple Leafs defenders inability to score both five-on-five and on the power play.
Simply put, you need consistent scoring to win at the NHL level; the Leafs did not have that this season.
As I eluded to in the previous slide, the Maple Leafs defensemen were horrific offensively both five-on-five and on the power play this season.
Truth be told, outside of Dion Phaneuf (who just recently exploded with a few goals), every defenseman should be ashamed of their offensive efforts this season.
Carl Gunnarsson, Luke Schenn, Keith Aulie, Mike Komisarek and Brett Lebda have combined for a total of 12 goals on the season. Add that to Phaneuf’s seven goals on the season and the departed Thomas Kaberle’s three goals and you get a grand total of 22 goals—that’s just not good enough.
Of those 22 goals, only four came on the power play, three of which belong to Phaneuf.
If you are looking for a reason the Maple Leafs’ power play is so inept you just found it—the defense cannot score.
The Maple Leafs are one of the NHL’s slowest starting teams. Through 76 games, the Buds have registered a total of 55 first period goals, which ranks them 25th overall.
While the Buds have been better in the second (69 goals, ranking them 18th overall) and the third period (71 goals, which ranks 13th overall), nobody can argue that this team has struggled to hit the ground running in most contests.
To his credit, in the face of extreme media and fan criticism, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has stood by Mike Komisarek all season long.
Komisarek was signed as a free agent by Burke in the summer of 2009-10. At the time of the signing, Komisarek was thought to be one of the best free agent defensemen available, with many experts citing his shutdown and hitting abilities as Komisarek’s key assets.
Komisarek currently ranks third amongst Maple Leaf defensemen in hits, but with just 139 on the season, he ranks 27th overall. Even at 27th overall, which does not look too bad on the surface, few of Komisarek’s hits have been of the bone jarring variety, few have been game changers—which is what was expected of Komisarek.
Not a lot to say here. Through 76 games, the Maple Leafs have averaged a total of 28.8 shots. On the surface, that’s not far off the league-leading San Jose Sharks, who average 34.3 shots per game, but those extra five or six shots a game evidently make all the difference in the standings.
Toronto’s winning percentage when outshot? .500, which ranks them 20th overall.
Through 76 games, the Maple Leafs own a .643 winning percentage when they score the first goal. While a .643 winning percentage looks great on paper, that puts the Buds 21st overall.
When leading after the first period, the Maple Leafs own a .714 winning percentage, good enough for 22nd overall.
The Blue and White have been much better when leading after two periods, but even with a .846 winning percentage, it was still only good enough for 19th overall.
Through 76 games, the Maple Leafs have lost a total of 10 times in overtime, which ranks them 15th overall.
Maybe the Maple Leafs are just unlucky? Maybe they were/are out of shape? Maybe they didn’t get the clutch goaltending they needed?
Truth be told, it’s probably a combination of things. That said, giving up overtime points—especially to division rivals—can be murderous in the standings and probably played a big role in the Buds finishing out of the playoffs this season (likely finishing out of the playoffs, that is).
Oh, and one other thing...the Maple Leafs have scored a total of two overtime goals all season, which ranks them 23rd overall.
***If you are looking for an edge in your playoff pool, take a look at which teams fail to score in overtime in the regular season, as they will often struggle in the playoffs as well.
Three of the worst teams are the Los Angeles Kings (one goal), Boston Bruins (one goal) and the Chicago Blackhawks (two goals). Three of the best are the Tampa Bay Lightning (nine goals), Detroit Red Wings (eight goals) and the Washington Capitals (seven goals).
Just say’in is all...
If you ask any Maple Leaf fan where the Maple Leafs need the most help their response is likely going to be “at Centre”.
Nazem Kadri received plenty of hype in the local fish wraps this summer with many ‘experts’ predicting a very successful season for the defensively inept rookie.
Kadri was given plenty of chances to be the Maple Leafs first line centre, but failed to deliver. Thrust into a role he could not grasp (fairly or unfairly) Kadri was a disaster, with many of his glaring errors leading to Maple Leaf losses.
Mikhail Grabovski has done a nice job of supporting Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur on the Leafs second/sometimes first unit.
That said, Tyler Bozak (the Maple Leafs’ other first line hopeful) was equally ineffective as Kadri in the offense department, while he also struggled mightily defensively.
The fact is, outside of Grabovski, the Maple Leafs do not employ a legitimate top-tier centre, which is a death sentence in today’s NHL.
While landing Brad Richards this summer via free agency may not be plausible for Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, it says here Burke will do everything he can to find an answer down the middle for the Maple Leafs—all he has now are question marks.