The Contrarian believes the Leafs are missing Dave Bolland enormously down the stretch.
There have been many articles written about the down turn of the Maple Leafs since the Winter Classic game.
David Hilson of the Toronto Sun, “It might be time to panic after latest Maple Leafs’ loss”, hints that some poor coaching is to blame. In his article he questions some of Carlyle’s roster decisions like sitting Jake Gardiner over Mark Fraser, sending down Peter Holland in favor for Carter Ashton and for getting John-Michael Liles traded off the team. David Hilson also implies that the coach does not have the answer to fix the problem.
Quoting Carlyle about the team not skating, standing still and being a step behind the coach says, “We stood around for most of the hockey game tonight. Nobody seems to know why.” David Hilson puts it right back on Carlyle by writing, “Nobody might know, but it’s something that must be figured out quickly or the Leafs can kiss the playoffs good-bye.” After all shouldn’t the coach know where the problems within the team are and how to correct them?
Lance Hornby, QMI Agency, “Leafs drop fourth in a row against Capitals”, re-introduces the overall fan sentiment about hanging the current problems on Carlyle even though the Leafs performed with more desperation in their latest loss. Pointing out that Mikhail Grabovski, another Leaf that could not play for Carlyle, helped Alexander Ovechkin score another goal.
He also points out, “Washington coach Adam Oates didn’t disguise his pre-game strategy, to exploit the shaky confidence of the Leafs, mush them on the forecheck and re-create conditions for the 50-shot bonanza the Caps had in Toronto last November in an overtime loss”.
Was the free agent acquisition to get David Clarkson supposed to solve some of that?
Others out there suggest that there was a let down since the HBO show 24/7 stopped following the team after the Winter Classic. That isn’t the likely reason because the Leafs were performing poorly even while the show was being filmed. The staff at TSN asks, “Your Call: What’s the problem with the Toronto Maple Leafs?”
Could it be that they took the result of the Winter Classic for granted and thought that everything else for the remained of the schedule will come up roses for them?
In 2007-08, Pittsburgh defeated Buffalo. Pittsburgh ended up second overall in the conference. They also eventually lost to Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals that season.
In 2008-09, Detroit defeated Chicago. Detroit also ended up second in the conference but this time they lost to Pittsburgh in the finals.
Boston beat Philadelphia in 2009-10 and they finished sixth in the conference, but it was Philadelphia that made it to the finals only to lose to Chicago.
Washington beat Pittsburgh and ended up first in the conference. Pittsburgh ended up fourth. Neither of these teams would be in the finals though. It was the Bruins that won the Cup that season.
The Rangers defeated the Flyers in the 2011-12 season and they finished first overall in the conference. Philly finished in fifth. New Jersey ended up representing the conference but lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the finals.
Could it be that the Leafs felt that they were destined to be playoff bound simply because they participated, and won, their Winter Classic game? Is that why they have been looking like they were mailing in their last couple of efforts?
This is all magic bullet thinking though. Even if they were out matched by their opponent’s talent wise, that would not prevent them from providing a full, hard-working, lunch bucket effort. The fans would see that they were trying and even understand to some degree why they were losing. That is not the case right now though.
They are supposed to have enough talent to win, to be competitive and to make the playoffs this year.
Let us look at their current stats, projected to the end of the season and compare them to Dobber’s projections as of September 29th, 2013.
Both goaltenders are falling short of their projected win totals, five each. That is ten wins and translates to 20 points for the Leafs. It is not all their fault though.
Of the guys that are surpassing their projected point totals, James van Riemsdyk, Mason Raymond, Tyler Bozak (who has come back from injury now) and Morgan Rielly are the only major contributors.
The one player to note though is Dave Bolland. He has been out with an ankle injury since early November and the Leafs have struggled in his absence. He was cut by Zack Kassian’s skate.
The answer to what is troubling the Leafs is that injury to Bolland. They cannot wait for his injury to heal. There is no one on the team that can currently take over for what he was doing or else they would not be in the predicament that they currently find themselves in.
The only problem is that they have already been looking for a center for a very long time. They don’t grow on trees.
If they are going to chase after a wild card spot then they have to find a center and a good one at that. The alternative is to make do with what that already have and probably not make the playoffs. The fans of Leaf nation and the local writers will be screaming for action by the season’s end. It could cost Randy Carlyle his job.