What to think of the Leafs

Discussion in 'Hockey Talk' started by Janus, Nov 3, 2011.

  1. Janus

    Janus NHL

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    Depending on the outcome of the Leafs/Columbus game and Pens/Sharks game tonight the Leafs could very well be first overall tomorrow morning. Kessel is the league's leading scorer and also leads in goals and +/-. Lupul is in the top 10 in scoring, in the top 5 in goals, and in the top 5 in +/-. Phaneuf is in the top 5 in defenceman scoring and tied for first in +/-. Steckel is 2nd in faceof percentage. Grabovski and MacArthur are getting back in track and Connoly has looked promising. They have better depth up front and on D. The Leafs are tied with Washington for the best 5 on 5 GF/GA ratio and only Philly has scored more even strength goals. Lots of very bright spots. So why aren't I feeling better?

    Special teams have been nothing short of brutal. When you add PP and short handed goals for then subtract PP and short handed goals against the Leafs have a special teams +/- of -7, second worst in the league. Their PP is middle of the pack but the PK is horrendous. Nik Kulemin is off to a slow start and Luke Schenn seems to be having a Mr Hyde year. Komisarek looks less terrible but that isn't saying much. Reimer was ok but not great before getting hurt and Gustavsson seems to be trying to take Schenn's Dr. Jeckyl/Mr Hyde title only with him you see both in a 60 minute span.

    Considering they are one of if not the youngest team in the league and have some promising young players playing well on the roster and in the AHL, I'd have been happy even if they weren't 8-3-1 at this stage. The hot start certainly puts them in a good position for making the playoffs. If 93 points is the benchmark they'd need a .542 win percentage over the remainder of the season, roughly the equivalent of going 5-4-1 over each 10 game stretch from here on in. Certainly doable.

    I guess it comes down to a question of do they keep the good things going and get the problems fixed or do the problems cause the good things to come off the rails. I think they have the pieces to be a playoff team. Can they put them together...?
     
  2. m_peroni

    m_peroni Hall of Fame

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    Obviously it is good news to rack up so many points, and it is also a good sign that training camp went really well for this team, but you should be worried. Some of these teams that surprise early on in the season tend to fall off the grid, hit too many cold streaks and get passed by teams that are better, but just had slow starts.

    Also, Reimer is showing a lot of promise and he won some games. Can he keep it up?

    It comes down to this question. Will the Leafs elevate their game as other teams elevate theirs?

    So far, though, i like what i am seeing in terms of potential and a base core to work with in the following years.
     
  3. rikster

    rikster 2nd Team All-Star

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    I was pretty down on their team out of training camp but sure like the way they are playing...

    Nice looking blue line but so thin down the middle...

    I don't think they have the roster to maintain their level of play, especially given the stats you gave regarding special teams but for now a fun team to watch...

    Take care...
     
  4. Janus

    Janus NHL

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    In a way a better question might be "Can they elevate their game as other teams elevate theirs?" This is a young group and they simply might not be ready yet to take that step, much like Colorado last year. They started hot but when adversity hit the wheels fell off. Having some vets like Connolly Liles around will help and some of the core young players are a bit older for the Leafs so hopefully they won't go through a slump of that magnitude.

    But like you I like the foundation. As eager as I am to see them back in the playoffs I'm more concerned with 2-3 years down the road. Up front if Kessel and Kulemin can continue to improve and if we get a couple of players out of Colborne, Frattin and Kadri we should be in pretty good shape. As much as the team has struggled defensively I like the blueline. We've got our #1 in Phaneuf. Gunnarson is underrated IMO and has been an excellent fit with Dion. I really believe Schenn will work through the growing pains and Gardiner has impressed the heck out of me. (Can you believe we got Lupul AND Gardiner for Beauchamin?) Franson has looked lost but I think that has more to do with a lack of a clear defensive system in TO than anything else. With Aulie (I still believe in him), Mikus, Blacker and Percy in the system we've got quality and depth. If Reimer can show himself to be a legit #1 the Leafs could be poised (with some tweaking) to contend in a couple years.
     
  5. Janus

    Janus NHL

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    Of all the positions center is certainly the weak spot. Unless he can suddenly become durable Connolly is a temporary solution. I'm happy with Grabo in the #2 spot. He's not big but that isn't as much an issue on the second line and he plays a rugged game. He brings a pretty good balance of offence and defence, playmaking and goal scoring. I like Bozak but at this point he's not doing anything well enough to say he's secured his job. There simply hasn't really been anyone to take it from him at this point. The fact that Steckel has taken the spot at times says it all. We're better off with Steckel on fourth line duty plus as a facoff specialist. If Lombardi can get his game back into form he could be a good fit on the third line but he'd be another small centre and not really a long term solution either.

    Colborne is showing a lot of promise (AHL player of the month, 8G,8A, +8 in 9 games) at 21 but he's not ready for the #1 job and it would probably be a waste to have him playing 3rd line minutes average wingers. Kadri is only 21 but he has to start showing something soon as he's looking as much a suspect as a prospect. After that there's really not much there so to me that's an area Burke has to continue to try and address despite the fact that it #1 centers aren't exactly an easy commodity to find. Unless Carolina decides they need to dump that Staal bum who is playing so badly now despite his huge contract, maybe the plan is to let Connolly fill the gap until Colborne is ready. :)
     
  6. Shakes

    Shakes MVP

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    I think that they have worked there way into being a good team that has a good chance of finishing between 4th and 10th spot.

    I think that they are not a cup contender inspite of being in first place and are not even remotely close to this lofty height. I also think that they are somewhere in between the beatings they took at the hands of the Bruins and being in 2nd place in the NHL. Those beatings at the hands of the Bruins tell me that there is still a lot of work left to be done as they pretty much gave up in the last game.


    Overall I like what I have seen. I think that Kessel has had a great year thus far and may be turning the corner as a player that has good skills to a player that has good skills and is willing to try and fight harder then ever before thus enabling him to be a more complete player. This is something I said had a chance of happening with this trade and now I pray that it "CONTINUES" to happen.

    They have to do somethign with their PK it is brutal......Offensively the team has been firing on all cylinders but it will not last you can tell that they will not be a consistant offensive team all the time. They need to cut back goals on the PK and at the same time cut down on goals against as these were poor spots last year that actually got worse this year and this has to change and if it does not I fear they will eventually drop like a stone in the standings.

    Problems
    Fix the PK
    Fix the GAA
    Stop giving away breakaways and learn to play the run and gun defensive system better then they have been.
    Get healthy (armstrong, Riener) are big pieces on my type of team.
    Kulemin needs to get it going.

    Strengths:
    Defence has really helped out offensively this year and Phaneuf is finally shooting the puck lower on net.
    First line is lighting it up Kessel, Loupul have had great starts.
    Defence is chalk full of options and depth.
    the third line with a healthy Lombardi is a very deep 4th line as well and when armstrong gets back it will then also help there fourth line.

    All and all the team is rounding into form and I believe that the sum is greater then the parts at the moment (which is a good pat on the back for Wilson and Burke as the parts are buying into the system in Toronto)


    I think they will make the playoff's if they do not run into a goaltending problem.......I think that they have enough bright spots everywhere else in there line up to make the playoff's providing that they get average goaltending. Yes the Leafs do not need GREAT goaltending to make the playoff's just average......If they do get great goaltending then they could finish in the top 4 in the East....
     
  7. Die-hard

    Die-hard MVP

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    If I'm a fan of the Leafs I don't care what others think of the team - points now count just as much as points later, might as well rack up as many as you can in the early going.

    Truthfully I didn't think they would make the playoffs this year, but this streak is slowly starting to change my mind. If they can keep this up a bit longer they'll be just fine - let's hope they can.
     
  8. Shakes

    Shakes MVP

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    I would like to see what November brings but I have been impressed with what I have seen thus far. Im taking the Kenny Holland approach to the NHL these days. Monitor progress on 10 game sets and pray that your team does not have any bad stretches while at the same time has a few good 10 game sets where they put some points in the bank.

    The goal is to get at lest 12-14 points in each 10 game set according to Holland.

    First 10 games the Leafs put points in the bank with 15 points in 10 games.

    So far in there next 10 game stretch two wins and two loses so in order to pass the next test they will need to get 4 wins out of the next 6 games.

    Im not convinced that the Leafs will pass the Holland test in the next 6 games but I do hope they win on Sat as I have tickets to see them play against the Sens on SAT.
     
  9. m_peroni

    m_peroni Hall of Fame

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    Seems like they lately have defensive breakdowns that prove costly. Panthers had way too easy of a time in the Leafs zone.
     

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