6-1 loss to Carolina highlights all that is wrong with the Maple Leafs
By Tony Ambrogio (@SNTonyAmbrogio)
This is as low as it has been all season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
An embarrassing 6-1 loss to Carolina on Thursday highlighted all that is wrong with the Leafs, a team that now sits out of the playoffs for the first time all season.
They have lost three straight games – to teams below them in the standings (Rangers, Islanders and Hurricanes) – while being outscored 18-5 and being outshot by an average of 10 shots a game during the stretch.
It doesn’t seem to matter what they do – make a move to bring in defenceman Tim Gleason, bench Paul Ranger and Jake Gardiner, turn to James Reimer in goal – nothing is working.
They don’t look interested. They have little confidence. They are playing without any aggressiveness or tenacity.
The Toronto Maple Leafs look lost.
It is eerily similar to March of 2012, when Ron Wilson was fired and Randy Carlyle brought on board.
At that time General Manager Brian Burke said it was like an “18 wheeler going right off a cliff.”
When Wilson was fired, the Leafs were in a 1-9-1 funk and had fallen to 12th in the eastern conference.
Fast forward to this season and the numbers aren’t much better: In the last 24 games, the Leafs have just 2 – that’s right 2 – regulation time wins. If not for a bunch of shootout victories the Leafs would be in more dire straits.
The Leafs right now find themselves in 10th place in the eastern conference, just one point ahead of Ottawa (5-3-2 in the last 10) and two points up on the New Jersey Devils.
“First thing we didn’t do was move our feet, cause we stood around and watched,” said Leafs Coach Randy Carlyle following Thursday’s loss. “Nobody has an answer right now. We aren’t engaged in the hockey game to a level to give yourself a chance at success.”
“We’ve stated it numerous times, that we’re not happy with our compete level, night in and night out,” noted the head coach. “That’s what we’ve been pushing for.”
This is a trend that has been evident not only in the last few games – but for months now.
“I think the talking has to stop,” said Jay McClement following Thursday’s loss to Carolina. “We’ve talked all year all about all these things and we’re just not getting the job done. Nothing seems to be changing. We’re just still very inconsistent with our efforts. Something’s got to change. I think we’ve done so much talking, we just need a little more action.”
“Two of the last three games we get blown out – that’s not acceptable,” added McClement.
Randy Carlyle played an instrumental role in roster changes this season – most notably the decisions to part ways with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski.
MacArthur has 15 goals in Ottawa, Grabovski 12 goals in Washington this season.
It was Carlyle who felt his team had to be harder to play against – so moves were made to bring in David Clarkson (who has 3 goals in 32 games) and David Bolland (who has been injured since early November).
The Maple Leafs have allowed a league worst 36.4 shots on goal a game. The penalty kill is 27th in the league.
While Carlyle has been unable to get more out of Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner, two young players who have seemingly taken steps backward this year.
Under Carlyle, the Leafs have received little production from their 3rd and 4th lines. Against Carolina on Thursday, enforcer Colton Orr played just 33 seconds.
Since November the Leafs have been outscored 102-69.
General Manager Dave Nonis has been supportive of Carlyle to this point.
The question is, for how much longer?