By Jake Aferiat
At 97, the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the NHL’s oldest franchises. In their 97 years, they have been to the playoffs 65 times, and in those 65 appearances, they have won 13 Stanley Cups. However, recent seasons have not been so kind to the Leafs.
The Leafs have missed the playoffs in 9 out of the last 10 seasons, and when they made the playoffs in 2012-13, they were eliminated in the first round. Of the seven Canadian hockey teams, only Winnipeg and Edmonton have had similar playoff droughts. The Leafs’ problems, like many teams, are a result of their head coach and roster.
The roster is the first glaring issue. Dion Phaneuf, who consistently put up 50 points a year as a defenseman in Calgary, has failed to produce during his tenure in Toronto. Now, many fans are calling for his removal, either via trade or release. Some big names have also failed to step up including: Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, and Tyler Bozak.
Recently, newly hired Randy Carlyle came out and said that there is no such thing as a set first liner anymore, and lines will be based on performance. That seems to indicate that changes will be made and quickly, especially after Toronto lost a franchise record 11 straight games and failed to score much, if it all, during that span, despite a reasonably talented roster.
Toronto started with Peter Horachek as their head coach, and after posting a 2-11-1 record in 14 games, he was given the axe. He was replaced by Randy Carlyle. Carlyle won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2006 and has been the on-again off-again coach of the Leafs since 2011. During that time, he has coached the team to a winning record in 3 out of his 4 seasons in Toronto, including having a winning record as of right now.
Carlyle’s record sits at 21-16-3, which certainly isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. Recently, they lost a franchise worst, 11 straight games, and scored only 11 goals during that span. 11 goals. That’s one goal per game! The Devils aren’t even that bad. During that same span, they were shut out four times, or in 36% of those games in the streak. Toronto posted a 0-10-1 record on this losing streak. Even worse for Carlyle, from December 18 to February 6, Toronto was an abysmal 3-18-1, the second-worst record in the NHL over that time period.
Usually, people like to look for the positive in situations, but with the Leafs there is no positive. Look for some combination of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf, and perhaps Jake Gardiner to make a big move. Despite NEEDING to make a big move, they won’t. With the deadline approaching in about 10 days, the Leafs have very little time to make a move and with many former stars underperforming, they will either ask for too much or turn down a potentially decent deal out of thinking that the players on their team are not worth being dealt. Rest assured, Toronto has brought shame to a once storied franchise and country with many hockey greats.