When you look at how the Maple Leafs season has gone, you will look back at it and see where it went right or where all of the sudden, went wrong. Although the season is not yet over and the Leafs are on the brink of not getting into playoffs, the biggest question will be, “What went wrong?” if they can’t manage to make it into playoffs.
Over the final stretch of the season, and more so, post trade deadline, the Leafs seem to have something missing. When talking with people involved in hockey and with great hockey knowledge, they tend to think that the Leafs defense is the major cause of the problem. The Maple Leafs offensively were pretty good, minus a couple ups and downs, but the biggest problem remained in the defensive zone. The Maple Leafs were outshot in the majority of games, leaving the goalies to have nightmares about the number of shots they would face on a given night. That leads us to the goaltender situation. Jonathan Bernier was very good for the Leafs this year, and the biggest reason that the Leafs are even in the position to have a little light at the end of the tunnel to get into playoffs. James Reimer on the other hand is a different story. Reimer has seen many ups and downs this year, and with the lack of confidence in him from his coaching staff, may be the reason for Reimer’s poor showings.
The Maple Leafs defense is to me, the biggest cause of all the issues they are facing. Signing Dion Phaneuf to a very big, number one Defenceman type salary, was a mistake in my eyes. There is no comparison between Phaneuf and number one Dmen from other teams. Look at Zdeno Chara, Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, those are big time defencemen, which Phaneuf does not compare too. The other list of Maple Leaf defencman, Cody Franson, Jake Gardner, Tim Gleason, Carl Gunnarsson, Paul Ranger and Morgan Reilly are not going to provide the big punch the Leafs need. Reilly has the most potential of all the defenseman I see on the ice for the Leafs but is still a year or two away from reaching more potential and settling into his role.
Dave Nonis, the Leafs GM, should have definitely taken a look around the league for a defenseman that could help them make a push into the playoffs. If the Maple Leafs cannot take advantage of the last three games of the season and hope that the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings fall apart, then Leafs nation is going to be in for a disappointing and long summer off.