This is typically the point in the Leafs’ season where I appeal for cooler heads to prevail and fans not to engulf themselves into a full-scale panic. Pick any one of my trusty reassurance tools: ‘it’s still early’, ‘the Leafs’ 5-6-3 record isn’t that bad’ or ‘hey look, Toronto’s just two points out of the No. 8 spot in the East’.
Not this time. True, they still have oodles of time to turn it around, but their 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay last night displayed an alarming level of sluggishness and fatigue for a team that a) hadn’t played since Saturday night, b) had won once in their past nine games and c) was playing a Lightning squad that, while improved from last season, is among the teams Toronto has to beat out in order to establish themselves in the play-off hunt. The listlessness shown by the Leafs spoke volumes of how this team stacks up right now.
Let’s get to the thoughts.
Giguere calls ‘em out
Two quick reactions upon hearing Jean-Sebastien Giguere call out his teammates after last night’s loss: 1) good for someone besides Burke to speak out against a lethargic group over what has hardly been a taxing schedule, and b) why did it come from the team’s goaltender? Nothing against Giggy, but even in the absence of Phaneuf, this was the perfect opportunity for one of the club’s other leaders – say, one of the Tomas Kaberle-Francois Beauchemin-Mike Komisarek assistant trio – to step forward. Of course, they were every bit as much to blame for the team’s woes as any other skater, as opposed to Giguere, who has done everything he can to help the Buds remain competitive. But when it comes to leading by example on the ice, there’s only so much the netminder is capable of showing. The rest will have to come from another source.
Peddie steps down?
Reports that Richard Peddie is surprisingly set to step down from his post as MLSE President and CEO will surely please some long-suffering Leaf fans, but I’m not ready to pop the bubbly until I see who they tab as his replacement. Peddie certainly did his share of damage to the franchise as a non-hockey type who meddled into team operations far more than was warranted. But the era of the Br(i/y)ans (Leafs GM Brian Burke and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo) represented Peddie’s fade to the background as he willingly back off from the everyday goings-on of the club. In a perfect world (assuming the reports are true), MLSE brings in a business-type with a sports pedigree. Too bad Keith Pelley just took the Rogers job!
The struggles of the Leafs’ top line has been a common point of consternation among fans, but even more unsettling has been the near-invisible play of the kiddie corps who are up with the big club. The young players brought in under Burke’s watch haven’t added much to the team up front or on the defensive end, leading to depth concerns. Tyler Bozak’s troubles have been well-documented, but none of Christian Hanson, Luca Caputi or Carl Gunnarsson have proven their worth either. It’s too early to get a proper read on Korbinian Holzer, but even he didn’t look comfortable in his own end last night. Altogether, the group is a -7 on the season
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Written by Ben Fisher