Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars: Time to Snap Back to Reality
The beginning of the 2011/12 season was one to remember, with many surprising stats coming from both teams and players. The two unlikely candidates which flew out of the gate early were the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Dallas Stars.
Now, a month and a half into the regular season, both these teams are beginning to show their true colours.
The Leafs now find themselves at 6th place in the east, with a record below .500 in the last 10 games and the league's second-worst GA/G. Dallas still sits at 5th in the west but are currently riding a four-game losing streak.
It's time that fans come to terms with the direction these two teams are headed.
Last summer, the Stars lost their most valuable asset in Brad Richards. Expectations for this campaign were extremely low, but critics were silenced early, as they were led strongly by Jamie Benn and Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen is a great goalie who, after a few shaky seasons, appears to be back on track.
His impressive early season statistics will be impossible to maintain, and the recent injury to Alex Goligoski won't help the Stars at either end of the rink. Up front, everybody knew Jamie Benn had great potential, but I don't think anyone could have foreseen this type of elite play from him early on.
Despite their falling in the standings, the Stars will always be given credit for catching opponents by surprise and showing them that Brad Richards wasn't their only offensive weapon.
Predictions for the Leafs weren't as one sided as they were with the Stars. Whether the predictions were to make the playoffs or not, I think everybody could agree that it was going to be close.
Phil Kessel has great wheels, and a bullet of a wrist shot, but let's face it; he's in the top 30 forwards in the league—but he doesn't belong in the top 10. He plays alongside Joffrey Lupul, who has no business on an NHL top line, and Tim Connolly, who, while incredibly skilled, is one of the most injury-prone players in the league.
Leafs fans will likely see Phil Kessel's rankings slowly drop along with the team's position in the standings. Whether you are a believer or a non-believer in the Leafs, one thing can be agreed upon: Toronto cannot get it done without a healthy James Reimer.
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