Blog Entry

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:49 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:01 pm
Toronto hasn't been very good lately to put it mildly. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

At one point this season, things were good in Toronto. Really good. General manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson were having some fun with the media it seemed by announcing a new contract extension for Wilson on Christmas Eve.

Now? Not so much. The fans that have actually been patient for years in Toronto began serenading Wilson with "Fire Wilson!" chants at the Air Canada Centre in their most recent home loss, a 5-3 defeat to the Panthers.

"It’s frustrating, but understandable," Wilson said. "Everybody’s frustrated right now."

As good as the month of February was to the Phoenix Coyotes, it was almost as bad to the Maple Leafs. They went 4-9-1 in the month but 1-9-1 in their final 11 games including the current six-game losing streak.

Maybe this better illustrates how tough it has been for them recently. After their Feb. 4 win against the Oilers, the Leafs had a 90.05 percent chance of making the playoffs per Sports Club Stats. As the month of March began? The odds were down to 11.07 percent. 

At the heart of the struggles of course has been goaltending, something they hoped was fixed in Toronto with James Reimer's emergence a season ago. Well, he has fallen on rough times too, including being thrown under the bus more or less by Wilson after Toronto's recent 4-2 loss to the Capitals in what was a huge game in the playoff hunt.

“The two goals early in the game were stoppable chances,” said Wilson. “They [the Capitals] got saves at one end, we didn’t. We dug a hole because of that. And we’re kind of always waiting now for something bad to happen. We’ve got to find a way to get over that.

“You can pull a goalie. I thought tonight I’ll call a time out, tell everybody to relax, that we can get out of this hole. Then you start playing tentative hockey. That’s what happens. With all the other stuff that bubbles around at the outside like trade deadlines, those little things that affect players.

“You worry you’ll be the one moved. It affects a young team.”

It sure would seem Reimer is affected by a lot right now. He has just one win in his last seven starts. He has surrendered a whopping 26 goals in those seven starts, two of which he didn't even finish. And it's not like Jonas Gustavsson has been the knight in shining armor behind him. Let me put it this way: There is a reason why Burke was open before the trade deadline in saying his team was seeking a goaltender via trades. Obviously it didn't happen.

Nothing like a vote of confidence for your goaltenders, eh?

"Yeah, you do get exasperated, and you get frustrated," Wilson said. "But tomorrow’s a new day. The sun will probably come up. We’ve got to pull up our bootstraps and get going."

If they don't, the playoff drought is going to extend into a seventh straight season, pretty remarkable for a market like Toronto with the assets they have at their disposal.

They have already been leaped in the standings by the once-buried Buffalo Sabres and are just one point ahead of the similarly previously dismissed Tampa Bay Lightning. They're currently five points back of that eighth spot they had been holding for some time.

Now they are as close to the East's basement as they are the playoffs. If that isn't saying something, nothing is.

But hey, there is good news, Toronto. The Leafs do actually have their first-round draft pick this summer.

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Since: Oct 4, 2006
Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:48 pm

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

Wilson just got fired

Since: Mar 20, 2011
Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:43 pm

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

The second half of the season is when the Leafs become the "Laughs"

Since: May 30, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2012 8:01 pm

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

Well there are some oddities in all off this. Brian Burke called out Darcy Regier for being difficult to work with yet Darcy got it done. Having said that I was on the #dosomethingdarcy bashing bandwagon on Twitter - guess I look pretty foolish now

Funnier yet is Timmy Connolly is a Leaf and the Sabres got CoHo. I like Timmy but 5 mil for him is a flat out waste of resources at this point in his career.

Burke gets hailed as some type of genious but I don't see it

I like his aggressiveness but so far he has failed  Leafs Fans who were thrilled to get him. in the mean time Sabres fans HATED Darcy are happy again

go figure

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:15 pm

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

Toronto would have to take on a bad contract too (like Ballard), and I'm not convinced Toronto had anything reasonable that would have made the Canucks more likely to  the cup this year.    

Yeah.  I like Hodgson, very talented kid that I believe is capable of putting up some good numbers in the near future.  But in my opinion the Leafs would have been forced to give up far more then he's even worth.  Buffalo had something Vancouver desperately wanted, a very young and tough kid capable of being a pretty good power forward in his league, and a kid that's under contract for another 2 or 3 years in his rookie contract.  Toronto doesn't have a Kassian on their team so I doubt Vancouver would have had any interest with the only exception being if they could have ripped Toronto off in a bad way.

I could have seen the Canucks saying yes to a Hodgson/Ballard trade for something like a Gardiner, Schenn and a 1st round pick. But that's just my opinion.... obviously we'll never know.  That being said I don't see how Toronto trading their most promising defensive prospect and active player in Gardiner along with a young and talented Schenn and a possibly lottery pick in this year's draft makes any sense from the Leafs end of things.  Yeah, they get their center but they also get an over-paid and overrated veteran dman to go along with it. 

Buffalo was the right trading partner.. maybe the only trading partner the Canucks could do business with. 

Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:22 pm

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

What do you think the Leafs would have had to give up to get Hodgson out of Vancouver?
I don't think it would have happened without a 3 way trade.

Toronto would have to take on a bad contract too (like Ballard), and I'm not convinced Toronto had anything reasonable that would have made the Canucks more likely to win the cup this year.   

Since: Jun 9, 2009
Posted on: March 2, 2012 12:57 pm

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

Personally, I think that Vancouver initiated that trade because they wanted more grit in their lineup, something they lacked last year causing them to lose to boston, a team that had a ton of grit. I dont see any players on the Leafs that have the same skills set and grit that a player like Kassian has. So therefore leafs have nothing to offer for hodgson and couldnt make a trade.

As to your second point, I dont think that a general managers comments on a given day affect trade proposals as much as you think. At the end of the day its the value they 20 or so scouting team of each team puts on a given player and they try to make trade with even values that benefit both teams. Just because you dont like comments a certain GM has said doesnt mean your going to ignore all the players on that team or any trade offers from that guy. I mean if you do, than that is putting your own ego above the team your managing.

Since: Jun 8, 2009
Posted on: March 2, 2012 12:44 pm

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

What do you think the Leafs would have had to give up to get Hodgson out of Vancouver? Because that kid could have beem the answer to their #1 center woes. Even if he only took on the 2nd line duties next year...

Next question, is there another GM out there that would make a trade of significance with Burke? He has made it his mission to set himself apart (read "above") many of his counter-parts for years - is that coming back to bite him?

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