Kukla's Korner

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From the Net Out

For the first time this season, The Leafs are below the 500 mark. The talk around the city is that scoring is the problem and that criticism is not without merit (especially after being shutout 3 times in the last 6 games).

When the Leafs began the season 4-0-0, goals were aplenty. In those first 4 games, the Leafs scored 16 goals. In the 10 games since, they have scored 15. So naturally, the criticism wanders towards the area that was present before but is absent now.

But let’s be honest here. Outside of Kessel, the Leafs’ top 6 isn’t actually a top 6. It’s a collection of forwards who would slot 4 through 9 on virtually every other team in the NHL. Bozak is a prime example of this phenomenon. The City of Toronto has been all over the Leafs’ Line 1 Center to start playing like one, when that is not what he is (not yet anyways <- that’s the fan in me talking). Versteeg, Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur are no different.

Last night’s match-up against the Lightning was merely a reminder of the fact that the Leafs’ offense is no match for the offense of playoff-bound teams.

And that’s the problem. The Leafs are trying to play a game they are not built to play. The first 4 games of the season were not the rule. They were the exception.

Ron Wilson and the Leafs instead need to play a style according to the team Brian Burke has built thus far. Strong goaltending and defensive responsibility need to be the theme. So no more 2-1-2 High forechecking. No more unnecessary involvement of defensemen in rushes. No more excessive pinching. And especially, no more trading chances.

Instead, the Leafs need to switch gears to being overly conservative. Every decision made on the ice needs to err on the side of being safe. Opportunistic offensively. Proactively precautious defensively. Think Jacques Lemaire. It is a boring style of hockey, and the Leafs will play ugly games that will be terrible to watch. But it is the only way the Leafs can SUSTAIN winning this season.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Members Blog | Permalink
  Tags: brian+burke, giguere, grabovski, gustavsson, jacques+lemaire, kessel, kulemin, ron+wilson, versteeg

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