As hockey fans, there is something you never want to see, whether you are a fan or not, is the boys wearing the blue and white with the maple leaf on their chests give up! As sad as that is, it is ultimately what is happening in Toronto. When a team hurts their number 1 (arguably) goalie during the warm up, then nearly injures their 4th string net minder before the game has even started, you know the players minds are elsewhere. Then you start the game with said 4th string goalie who's scared out of his mind and don't give him any support or help - that's unconscionable! The blue and white are beat down, tired and honestly can't wait for the season to end, but it's not fair how they have just quit; not fair to the goalies, coaches and most importantly the fans who pay huge bucks to see them play like crap!
In early January the Leafs just fell off a cliff, they were doing well, everyone was happy, there was excitement in T.o........ fast forward 6 weeks and 14 teams have passed them in league-wide standings! What the heck happened? I'm going to try and narrow it down to 3 reasons the Leafs are in this mess. BUT one thing I am not going to do is blame the GM or coach, no matter how bad a job you think Brian Burke or Randy Carlysle are doing, when it's all said and done it's up to the players to do their job!
As much as I like James Reimer he is not a number one goaltender; last season he came out of nowhere, no one knew him there were no expectations hence he was phenomenal. People now know him, players have studied him add to that the high expectations and Reimer has shown he just couldn't handle it. He's a young goalie who wasn't ready to be thrust into the number 1 position. Gustavsson was also not ready to be a number one goalie, he'd always been a backup since joining the Leafs. As much as he saved the Leafs season during the stretch when Reimer was out, he's lost his confidence. Looking back, the Leafs went into the 2011-2012 season without a number one goalie, they were relying on 2, young fairly inexperienced goalies to step up and take this team back to the playoffs, which was unfair and unrealistic (Burke?). Whatever way you want to spin it; neither Gustavsson or Reimer has played well this season, Gustavsson has been a slightly less bad but in a disastrous season does that really matter? The sad thing is the team has no confidence in either goalie, and that's a recipe for disaster, when players think every time the opposition has a scoring chance it's going in, the players start playing differently (worse).
I hate being harsh on goalies I really do, but the Leafs need a new netminder; they will likely lose Gustavsson in the offseason and Reimer could use another year or two as a back up learning his craft at the NHL level. These two goalies don't cut it, they need a solid goalie they can rely on. Whether they work some magic and get Schnieder (unlikely) or someone else, if the Leafs don't get a number one net minder they will go no where!
Another issue with trying to go out and acquire a new goalie, is the Leafs goalie coach Francois Alluire. Although Burke thinks he's amazing, he's actually hurting the Leafs. He tries to change each goalies style, many of whom don't play well with the new style. Look a goalie playing in the NHL obviously knows a thing or to about being a good goalie, their style got them to the NHL. Changing their style is the worst thing you can do for a goalie mentally! Reimer was just fine in his first year when Alluire didn't have a lot of time to mess with him, but a full season with that goalie coach and Reimer is one of the worst goalies in the league!
Whether you agree or not Dion Phaneuf has not been a good captain this season! As you know I don't agree with him being the captain, I think they should take the C away from him at the end of the season!
Phaneuf is one of the softest captains in the league this season and couldn't lead the Leafs out of a plastic bag! He's not there for his teammates, in the pathetic humiliating loss against the Flyers last night, he should have stepped up, fought someone and given the young rookie goalie some confidence, pound the crap out of anyone who touches him! He also turned down a fight after he pummeled Brayden Schenn with a cross check to the head! How about that 8-0 loss to the Bruins, he did absolutely nothing, he is a liability out there, that's not something you want from your captain!
3. Overpaid players not stepping
Tim Connolly has 31 points this season through 62 games, en route to the worst statistical year in his 11 year career! Not to mention he was stuck on the third line for most of the season; considering the Leafs gave him 2 years at $9.5 million and expected him to be the centre for Kessel this move has not panned out as of yet! Heck he's been paired with 13 different line mates! Connolly played fairly well early on in the season recording 12 points in his first 13 games, but his scoring has dried up as of late with just 19 points over the last 49 games (not including last night).
Colby Armstrong, was give a 3 year $3 million contract (too much in my opinion) he's not worth it, he was given an A to be an assistant captain yet spent a large portion of the season under head coach Ron Wilson in the press box as a healthy scratch! A waste of money, for a player who isn't worth it, he's a 3rd/4th line grinder scores a few goals and just fills the gaps!
The Leafs are the highest paid team in the bottom 10 of the league, so either they need to smarten up with contracts or these players need to step up and earn their money. I wish there was an option for players who didn't perform up to their new contracts standards being required to give some of their money back or renegotiate a new contract. I know it sounds stupid and it will never happen, but it might actually help the Leafs!
The Leafs are in a terrible spot right now, 25th in the league, 2nd last in the East and looking for answers! Their passion and pride has been sucked away, they aren't giving it their all and they're sad to watch, no wait they're funny to watch. I tweeted last night that watching the Leafs is like a comedy, how many goals can they let in, how long can their home losing streak continue. This has to be one of the worst responses to a coaching change I have ever seen!
The Leafs need to improve drastically the sad thing is it could be another 2 years before we see a decent Leafs team, how much more can fans handle!?