Toronto Maple Leafs: Can We Panic Now?
The best word to describe the Leafs' loss to the Bruins on November 5th is 'humiliating.'
In that 7-0 drubbing, the Leafs had precisely zero quality scoring chances. To add insult to injury, Tyler Seguin had a hat trick.
Many Leaf fans remained positive and chalked it off to an off-night.
And yet, here we are, three days later, licking our wounds after another thrashing, this time a 5-1 loss to the Panthers.
The words 'painful' and 'pathetic' come to mind.
Who and/or what is to blame for the Leafs' current woes?
Is it head coach Ron Wilson? Captain Dion Phaneuf? Their league-worst penalty-kill?
This Leaf group is incredibly frustrating to watch because you never know what kind of team you'll be seeing. One day you'll get a team that has a chance of winning every game they play in, and the next, a team that rolls over and dies within the first 20 minutes of the game.
This was supposed to be the year for the Leafs.
Everything was supposed to be different.
Since James Reimer got injured, this year's Leafs have looked like the 2010-11 Leafs.
Special teams have been awful. The power play has been mediocre at best while the PK has been good enough for 30th in the league.
Goaltending has been mediocre at best. Ben Scrivens had a good game against the worst team in the league, but let in five goals against Boston and two against Florida. When Jonas Gustavsson starts, the other team is virtually guaranteed to score at least three goals; the Leafs only win with him in net if they also score three or more.
The Leafs as a whole are entirely predictable when playing five-on-five: they either chip and chase, or get a winger to drive to the outside, hit the brakes and pass back to a trailing D-man.
As I said: this Leaf group is incredibly frustrating to watch.
Despite the two recent discouraging losses, the Leafs are still 9-5-1 and leading the Northeast Division, albeit by a hair's breadth.
Their fast start was exciting to watch and a lot of positives came out of it, but no matter how good they were, it cannot be denied that a lot of weaknesses were exposed as well.
Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Dion Phaneuf all had a great October, but let's be honest, we all knew it wasn't going to last.
The Leafs were winning a lot of games, but none of them were decisive victories.
Their losses, however, were telling. Pitiful attempts at clearing their own zone, poor outlet passing, bad passing in general, ineffective tries at entering the attacking zone, being limited to perimeter shots, neutral zone turnovers...shall I continue?
The current Leafs roster is dramatically different from what it was 12 months ago. On paper, significant improvements have been made at every position.
Is it time to panic?
How is it, then, that the team often looks just as bad as it did last year, and, dare I say it, the year before that?
Perhaps I'm simply overreacting. Maybe these past two games were aberrations. Maybe this is the year the Leafs break the November curse.
But have you noticed what happens to the Leafs when James Reimer isn't in the net?
After 14 games, I can say with 70 percent confidence that the Leafs are a team that completely depends on one player, Reimer, for success. (Hey, I'm an open-minded guy.)
That is not a recipe for success. Imagine Columbus without Rick Nash or Calgary without Jarome Iginla.
I'm not saying Reimer's a superstar, but the Leafs seem to depend on him like he is one.
Listen, I'm trying to stay optimistic, but I am finding their current levels of play and effort unacceptable.
I'm almost hoping the Leafs will slip up this month so I can see some major shake-ups in Leaf Land.
I do sincerely hope, however, that what we're seeing now is a case of the flu and not a recurrence of the dreaded blue-and-white disease.
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