Leafs Turnovers Against Playoff Teams will Spell the End

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?


Leafs Versus Nashville Versus The Odds

No, not the Vancouver Rock band. You know, The Odds. Odds are Wade Belak will be inserted into the lineup. If you haven't seen the article on Wade Belak now being the longest in the NHL without a goal, it goes like this. Wade Belak hasn't scored a goal in 121 NHL contests which makes him the non-scoring King after Derek Boogaard scored against the Oilers and broke a 235 game drought(if that's what it is when a 265 lb bruiser doesn't score for a while). The record is 255 games. Odds are Belak will score on the Leafs.

The Predators have won 2 in a row after dropping 5 consecutive prior to that. Coming into Tuesday's game the Preds have scored 11 goals in the last 3 games. The Leafs will need to get some better goaltending in the last 8 minutes of the game to get some points. The 64+ foot shot that beat Giguere will put some pressure on him to settle down right after the puck drops. Odds are he'll play well again, as he hasn't had a real stinker this year and seems to be playing pretty confident(which may have lead to the goal in the first place).

Steve Sullivan will be in town Tuesday. He has 9 points in 15 games and is one of the only plus players on the team. Odds are he's due for a multi-point night, as the Leafs usually have a cure for what's ailing the opposition. In this case, it's a slow start for the Preds offense overall. The difference between the Preds futility and the Leafs is that the Preds have put together 3 brief winning streaks that have them in the thick of 8 teams that have 17 through 20 points and 6th place through 12th. The Short version of that sentence; win 3 in a row and the Preds are in 8th. If the Leafs win 3 in a row they might get into 10th or 11th place in the East. Odds are they won't.

The Predators would be a great place to start a streak, though. The Leafs have been historically good at ending streaks of other teams, whether it's no-business wins against contenders on a win streak or the Edmonton Oilers on an infinity losing streak. Odds are the Leafs could squeak a tight game out tomorrow and get at least a point. Then move on to slap around the terrible New Jersey Devils. The Leafs always seem to get it up for the Habs on a Saturday, which could garner another single point. These points all depend on a much higher commitment to positional play. It's the middle of November now and there really isn't any more room for talk of new guys not being used to the "systems". The only real system I've seen this season is when Mike Zigomanis was winning faceoffs on the penalty kill and the Leafs weren't letting in goals 3 seconds after the PK started. Other than that, the forwards positional play has been horrendous, with the wingers standing around when the puck is in their own end. The Leafs forwards' ineptitude at clearing the zone has returned from last year, as well. Possession 3 inches inside the blue line turning into a goal is unacceptable at this level(who am I kidding, at the JR level).

We've all heard this and are getting sick of it, but the Leafs need some scoring. One of the things I liked about Kris Versteeg when he was in Chicago is he was an interesting interview. Now he is coming off as aloof and uncaring. Quit talking about having fun and get professional. As a fan who pays to watch, I would like to have a little fun myself. Odds are, I won't this week.


Leafs Look Sloppy

Good day people. Long time no whine! I have to tell you, it's been a bit of a struggle to get back to writing about the Leafs. When they were winning(a month ago) I was having issues with my PVR, so watching games was a chore. SO, through that, I have seen the Leafs win 2 games. I know that's 40% of their wins, but, come on, throw me a frickin' bone. Not to mention he fact that, living in Victoria, the Habs - Sens game was on THREE channels and I couldn't see the Leafs game, because (I'm assuming) there is no deal in place with Centre Ice for the specific purpose of me getting to see the leafs play when other Canadian teams are winning more games.

Do I have any ideas for the Leafs to start playing better? Sure, thanks for asking!
  • Score.....ever. The Leafs are 2nd last in the conference in goals-for, only leading New Jersey by 6 goals
  • Toronto has only allowed 3 more goals against than for and are 9th in the league in average goals allowed per game at 2.46. Goaltending is (for once) not a problem(you could argue against that stat with the timing of some of those goals against, but that stat is still impressive). This stat doesn't reveal how some of those goals are from mind-numbingly tragic turnovers from the defensive corp. My fix for this is STOP DOING THAT PLEASE....off the glass and out....even Juniors know this
  • 2 of the 31 goals against have been penalty shot and two losses in shootouts. Please practice these skills, it may come up again in the next 69 games
  • All is not lost! A point per game and a few 5 or 6 game streaks and this is still a playoff team(end fantasy time). the Leafs had a great 4 game win streak which can be repeated a few times with some motivation and confidence
  • Speaking of motivation....calling out the players in public has been working so well for two years, Wilson should keep doing that FOR SURE. My fix, hold a few practices. Is it just me or does the schedule seem REALLY lax this year? No excuse to not get the team playing Wilson's "systems"
  • If players aren't performing, start living up to promises that players will be sent down if they don't perform. It wouldn't break my heart to have Zigomanis back in the line up(why was he swapped out for Mitchell? I will always hate that guy, such a waste of decent skillset).
  • I'm not jumping on the Kadri should be playing bandwagon....until Kadri is a point per game in the minors and can play in his own end, I'm not interested.
  • Korbinian Holzer gets a callup for zero points and a minus 5?
  • The day Komisarek is tied in scoring with Kris Versteeg and Tyler Bozak, the coach should be fired....oh LOOK!
I could go on forever because I haven't written this year, but that's enough for today. I need to get a little more focused before the next game......just like the Leafs.