Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Yawn

Harrison clears waivers, Telly goes to Phoenix for $600K in dead-weight salary that will be buried in the AHL and on MLSE’s books Tyson Nash and a fourth round pick. Yawn…

Leafs lose another boring game to Boston (I saw that Glenn Murray goal coming all the way down the Lakeshore…anyone else notice that almost every Bruins goal, if not all of them in the past two games went right over Raycroft’s catching hand?). I’m glad the black and gold are gone for a while. Nothing like watching a team trap all night. Yaaaawwwwwwnnnn. New NHL indeed.

Here’s a quick look at the Leafs at the 25 (26?) game point. (A blogger commenting on a seasonal milestone? Yawn…)

Coaching - I have two concerns with the coaching at this point:

  1. The team is completely unable to adapt their game to play against passive defensive teams like the Bruins and Devils; and
  2. Despite the huge number in the goals for column, this team cannot mount any type of comeback. The Leafs have not won a single game when trailing after the first, and have only managed to win one game when trailing after two periods.

That’s a shocking stat.

What happens if this club does make the playoffs? Can Maurice come up with a game plan to break the trap? Can this club adapt its game to win a seven game series? Can this club scratch and claw it’s way to a playoff win? Based on the year to date, I have my doubts.

The standings: Once a sign of confidence - the team was second in the North East and fourth in the Division - unfortunately last night’s win by the Habs, coupled with the Leafs consecutive losses to the Bruins, puts the Buds third in the ConferenceDivision and fifth in the DivisionConference.

The Sens will likely catch and pass the Leafs in the standings just before Christmas (and don’t say I didn’t warn you or give you enough advance notice – there will be lots of blather, spit, ink, mindless use of air time – you name it, that will come at that juncture). The Sens’ ascendance (boo!) will push the Leafs down to fourth in their ConferenceDivision and at least sixth in theirDivisionConference. Let the hand-wringing begin…

Scoring: Everyone and their cousin said the Leafs wouldn’t be able to score this year, yet they’re second in the East in scoring and third overall in the NHL. So much for the experts…Unfortunately, while the team maybe filling the other teams’ net, they’re not exactly shutting down the opposition. The Leafs have the third worst goals against in the East and the fifth worst overall in the NHL. With a back-end eating up nearly half the salary cap and long-term commitments to Kaberle, Kubina and McCabe, this is just not good enough.

What else isn’t good enough? The bloody NHL schedule.

The Leafs play Boston on December 7th and then again with a double-bill to bring in the New Year. In all of the Dave Nonis nonsense about the schedule, did anyone point out that it could be improved just by spreading out the games against certain teams? Does anyone want to see the Leafs and Bruins play six times in eight weeks? Insomniacs everywhere rejoice...

5 comments:

  1. Paul Steckley1:04 pm

    I think you meant to say third in the division and fifth in the conference.

    I disagree with your assessment of the coaching.

    The Leafs had 46 shots on goal last night but only managed 1 goal against a guy that was in the ECHL prior to last season? That's not bad coaching. If your system is getting you 46 shots a game then it's a good system. The problem is a lack of finish when it counts. Maurice can only give the players the opportunity to excel but it's up to them to take that opportunity and generate success.

    The old coaching saying of plan your play and then play your plan reasonably applies here. The Leafs have a solid game plan, a high-pressure offensive game that should keep the puck out of their own end and give them an opportunity to win any night. The trouble is that they don't always play the plan. Either the players don't show up (i.e. Saturday's snooze-fest against the Bruins) or they execute the plan but forget that they need to score to make it work (i.e. last night's game).

    In my mind, the inability of the team to rally when they're behind is more an indication that they don't have enough true, clutch scorers, rather than poor coaching. We seem to have far too many players that squeeze the stick too tightly in pressure situations. Some of that is youth and inexperience and is probably to be expected of guys like Stajan, Steen, Wellwood, etc. It shouldn't happen with guys like Sundin, Tucker, or O'Neill. Sundin can be excused for the moment because he's just coming back from injury, but Tucker and O'Neill have missed numerous chances that a true scorer would have buried.

    From my perspective, if there is a legitimate complaint about Maurice's coaching to this point in time, it would be his insistence of keeping Belak in as a defencemen while Bell sits in the press box.

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  2. Paul - yeah, I tend to confuse conference/division, thought I'd caught it. Oops.

    Last night's shot count is meaningless. Anyone can hurl pucks at a goalie's chest from the perimeter (you've seen me play hockey - literally anyone can do it). The Leafs were out-shooting Boston 2:1 but the scoring chances were probably equal.

    As for the team being unable to rally, maybe it is unfair to lump that under Maurice and the coaching staff. Perhaps it is more organizationally systemic and a sign that we still need help upfront. Either way, it's a big problem for this club, especially since they can't seem to keep the puck out of their own net.

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  3. I think you are spot on about singling out NJ and BOS as troublesome teams to which the Leafs have trouble adapting. Of course, they adapted last night, but just couldn't finish. They earned several early powerplays, but as paul point's out, Tucker missed from his office, and later on in the game from the top of the crease. And the lack of rally-wins is a big concern as well. Not to mention the lost leads.

    I'm a big fan of Maurice, and admittedly he is still feeling his way around the roster, so i won't be too hard on the line juggling, because it does produce results. But to think Maurice hasn't been out-coached this season on numerous occasions would be foolhardy. Pre-game and In-game adjustments could use some improvement.

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  4. Paul Steckley11:47 am

    Mike, I don't think the shot count is meaningless. You won't necessarily score on every shot but if you don't take the shot you definitely won't score. Every shot is a potential scoring chance because we've seen some very weird goals this season alone that happened simply because the puck was shot at the net and it bounced or dipped in just the right way. I've always agreed with the cliche that a shot on goal is never a bad play.

    A big problem with the Leafs under Quinn the past few years was the lack of shots they took. Maurice seems to have fixed that. Now, they have to work on finishing, and that is an organizational problem, as you identified. Tucker is our leading goal scorer. Would he be the leading goal scorer on most other teams? I doubt it. He's doing well this year but he's not a bona fide goal scorer.

    That's one reason I was disappointed that the Leafs didn't go after Shanahan in the off-season. I think we would have been better off with Shanny at $4 million than Kubina at $5 million, and he certainly would help with the lack of clutch scoring.

    I don't agree with ninja's assessment that Maurice has been out-coached on numerous occasions this season. I haven't seen any glaring coaching errors like we saw with Quinn refusing to match lines, failing to take a time out at the appropriate time, dropping down to 3 lines for most of a 3 OT playoff game against Philly, etc. The Leafs' losses have usually been because of bad decisions on the ice (bad pinches especially) or lack of effort. Maurice's heavy forechecking system relies on a great deal of effort and energy to be exerted, hence why his practices are so focused on conditioning. Again, I think it's the player's responsibility to come up with the effort to play in that system, and too often this season we haven't seen that effort.

    This raises the question of motivation and lends credence to ninja's valid point that Maurice hasn't been as successful with his pre-game and in-game adjustments. By adjustments, I'm referring to attitude adjustments, and Maurice seems to be having the same problem Quinn had getting these guys motivated for big games or in between periods of games where they don't have their "A" game. But, it's still early in the season and he's still learning his team so perhaps he just hasn't discovered the right buttons to push on each player yet, and perhaps there are some players that just don't have any buttons to push,. putting the ball back in JFJ's court to change the makeup of the team. What the Leafs really need is a line like the Zezel-Berg-Osborne line from the Burns days; a high energy, hit-anything-that-moves line that can pop in the occasional goal but really excels at lifting the rest of the team's energy levels.

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  5. I'm glad informed Leaf fans hear footsteps.

    The Sens are comin' and my predictions about the end of year conference standings are still in play (I had Atlanta winning the Southeast, didn't I?)

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