Yes, the title of this blog is a little doomsday, but no less true. If you watched the National broadcast of the Leafs game Saturday against the Ole' Habs you will have heard the endless chatter of the leagues worst perpetual turnover machine. If you've been watching hockey for at least the last decade you will have heard the the prototypical playoff mold is the never-give-the-puck-away Detroit Red Wings. Don Cherry will tell you that off the glass and out is an effective and respectable method of playing defense. The Leafs have combined the two theories and decided that they should get the puck out of their own zone at any cost, but not do it over knee height. As in the past 4 fruitless seasons, the Leafs can get the puck to their blueline, but inevitably try and press it through the boards or pass it back into their own zone.
I ask you logically: Can 18 separate men all make the same horrible decisions with the puck given the infinite options in any situation? I'd answer yes for John Mitchell who just won't shoot unless he's already passed through the slot and any screen has disappeared. But for the rest of the team I would say that the coaching has given them a few options that are either too hard to remember or execute. Team panic is high now, and after 2 absolutely terrible turn over goals(I cannot address the Komisarek turnover as I am clinically dead inside ofter the 5th replay), the Leafs went back into "Holy-crap-we'll-never-score-again" mode. You can't teach good decision making skills, but you can teach good habits. In the 6 games the Leafs have won, 5 of them have been full of quick, clean break-outs and penetrating fore-checks. These things are possible when you don't give the puck away. I think it's important to mention that it does count as a turnover when you just throw the puck up in the air and give it away. The Leafs are in constant retreat mode. They give the puck away when they just don't have to and their opponents don't have to work for their offense(Komisarek's give away).
These woes still beg for an overall defensive zone system. At this level, under this much scrutiny, the lack of system, or of buying into said system, is overwhelmingly apparent. And just to be redundant I would like to add that Zigomanis is still languishing in the minors while John Mitchell spins down the ice with his stick in one hand playing helicopter collecting penalties. The next week offers ample practice time before playing teams the Leafs have traditionally folded for. Buffalo on Friday and Ottawa on Saturday. With the Stars on Monday the Leafs have an unfamiliar foe that they may get away with a win, like the Nashville game last week. But they better get their nerves settle before the weekend.
One thing for sure is it wasn't Gustavsson's signature on this loss. His frustration on his wasted effort on display after the powerplay give away goal with a wide open Cammalleri in the slot. How many things went wrong on that play? It wasn't just Komisarek's pass into the slot(really, who does that when you have possession on a penalty kill?) but the fact that he was the only Leafs player within 30 feet of the net. This is not behavior that encourages your goaltender to continue to play lights-out.
I'm not suggesting a coaching change for these issues to be resolved. I'm suggesting almost ALL the coaches be replaced(keep Allaire). None of the things these people are coaching are working. I'm not fooled by two games that the powerplay is fixed. The penalty kill was batting 0.000 on Saturday. The power-play was scored on again and they couldn't buy a faceoff. It would be a big difference if this was anomalous, but the Leafs have 19 games behind them. Winning 6 games per 20 brings the season point total to somewhere around 70 points. Spend money to watch that for how many more years?