It’s officially that time of year where expectations and hopes have turned to wins and losses, and for some teams just losses. Although it’s still early the Maple Leafs have not looked anything like the team that will contend for the playoffs and be defensively sound. They’ve looked like a team tanking this season for a high draft pick next season, but wait they don’t even have a first round pick next year…dang. Now what?
Let’s compare how the team is playing to how we were told they would play by management, coaches and players. They were supposed to play tough, check. They’ve been in more fights than any years in recent memory at this point. Is this making them tough to play against and making other teams think before they take liberties on the team’s goalie or top notch players? Uncheck. Fighting has obviously not accomplished what management and coaching wanted. What about being defensively sound? Nope. The Leafs have proven quite inept at keeping shots to the outside and helping their goalie, whoever it may be, clearing rebounds and boxing out defenders. I won’t let the goalies off the hook of course, a healthy Toskala has shown he’s not healthy enough or he’s developed an infatuation for the red light flashing behind him. Either way he’s looked terrible. Also at the moment the Leafs cannot stay out of the box. Is it really that hard not to elbow someone in the head? (I’m looking at you Mike Komisarek) Their current penalty kill strategy of letting the other team score is not working so they cannot afford to keep taking penalties.
Maybe it’s the pressure Brian Burke put on them by promising they’d make the playoffs. Maybe it’s the overall pressure of playing in the center of the hockey universe. Whatever the problem is I feel like it stems from Ron Wilson. Of course this is just my speculation. This team has not once looked fully prepared for a game, coming out flat for every game so far this year and in doing so giving up the first goal. It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard to motivate a new young group of players to play after a long offseason and tons of optimism coming into this season. Wilson has been forced to take time-outs early in every game to reem out re-group his players. This is where I raise my eyebrow and think there must be something off here. For most teams this tactic would work. It sends a message to players but for some reason Ron Wilson doesn’t seem to be able to get through to his players and if this is the case there is a major problem. I could understand if the team was at least competitive night in and night out but they have not been close to competitive since going to overtime against Montreal.
I know there’s not one single thing the Leafs are doing wrong but right now they seem to be holding their sticks way too tight, not playing relaxed and seem to have way too many defensive zone breakdowns to honestly think that they are buying into what Ron Wilson is saying. In my opinion, Ron Wilson should be on the hottest of seats right now for coaching a group of players that aren’t playing relaxed, disciplined or competitive hockey and these are the things a coach needs to get out of his players. Or else why even have a coach? I know Burke and Wilson are friends, and will run the US Olympic team together, but where’s the accountability Burke talked so much about this offseason. I want answers and I want them now!