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Revenge is a Dish Best Served with Maple


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The time has come. The event of the year that you've all be waiting for with baited breath. The Commander Clueless exclusive story, "Why the Leafs Are So the Opposite of Good".

 

Let's rewind the clocks a bit. The year is the Year of the Rabbit and/or Dragon - the 2011/2012 NHL season. Ron Wilson and the Mighty, Mighty Maple Leafs are looking good, on pace for the playoffs with one of the youngest teams in the league. Maybe not quite what Leaf fans expected coming out of a 5-year long rebuild, but looking up. Then comes the "18-wheeler off a cliff" scenario, as named by Big Brian Burke himself.

 

"But it's okay!" we said, "They're young, and we're seeing some progress!"

 

Fast forward to the next season, and Randy "Saviour" Carlyle and the Maple Leafs are looking good in a season that tried it's hardest to never exist. The team plays like Brannigan's Love; hard and fast. They are  tough to play against, and improved their league leading worst ever PK to one of the best. Then came the awesome Game 7 collapse against the Bruins.

 

"But it's okay!" we said, "They're young, and we're seeing some progress!"

 

Fast forward to this season, where  Randy "Damnit Randy" Carlyle and the Marlies are looking bad, and yet winning. They play fast and soft, relying more and more on their goalies to bail them out - a nearly complete 180 from where they once were. They improved their very good PK to a much more reasonable worst in the league. As we all know, they ended up collapsing in the most spectacular fashion yet, going from 2nd place in the division to an 8th overall draft pick in the span of less than a month.

 

"<Deleted for expletive content>" we said.

 

So what happened?

 

General Manager Dave "Deer in the Headlights" Nonis made some offseason changes that restructured the team, and not for the better it would seem:

 

1. Buying out Mikhail Grabovski and signing David Clarkson - The Leafs bought out their slightly overpaid centre being used as a shutdown centre, and instead opted for "bruising" winger David Clarkson, who came in like a wrecking ball and created a black hole on offense with no defensive game to speak of.

 

2. Trading for Dave Bolland to replace Grabovski - A decent move in theory, but Bolland played a grand total of a quarter of the season and may now escape to free agency, resulting in the Leafs having to overplay PK specialist Jay McClement as a shutdown centre as well, which does not work.

 

3. Letting Leo Komarov walk - While not a world beater, Komarov brought grit and intensity to the Leafs. This is something that the Leafs now seem to be without.

 

4. Letting Clarke MacArthur walk in favour of Mason Raymond - With this move, the Leafs got faster, but softer. To be fair, Raymond had a good season with the Leafs.

 

The Leafs team is completey different now than last year. Randy now seems to be possessed by the Ghost of Ron Wilson Past, and has them playing pond hockey.

 

So what do we do about it?

 

1. Restructure the forward group to play a two-way game. This doesn't necessarily mean moving Kessel, but the Leafs have very few forwards who play gritty and defensively. This must change this offseason. It's okay to have Kessel racking up points, but you can't have the entire team play like him. You need strong defensive and gritty players to balance.

 

2. The Defense. It needs work. A true top pairing defenseman to play with Phaneuf, or perhaps a "build from scratch" scenario. Gardiner and Rielly are promising young pieces and this may be solved internally, but it's ugly right now. Oh and the Franson experiment is over. He needs to move on to a team that needs a bottom pairing PP specialist.

 

3. Who friggin' knows?

 

Many Leaf fans are freaking out and want to restart the rebuild by moving Phaneuf, Kessel, Lupul, etc. and building around the young guys we do have like Kadri, Rielly, Gardiner, Bernier, and JVR. Not a bad plan, but maybe a bit drastic at this point.

 

Good luck Shanny.

 

So this particular subject probably could have been under yave's "Year in Review" thread, but I really wanted to use my own silly title with no real insight into the actual topic. Because I'm crazy like that. Also, it's playoff time so I'm lonely and want to feel relevant. It's really no big deal since nobody really reads the Leafs section anyway, given that there are roughly two Leafs fans registered here; one of which is certifiably clueless.

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@Commander Clueless

 

  To me one of the unspoken and biggest problem with the Leafs this year were the Marlie kid forwards. Kids like Leivo, D'amigo, Abbott, Broll, Carter Ashton, Devane and McKegg played 80ish games and managed an anemic 2 goals. Because of none of the kids taking a job opening and running with it clowns like Smithson, Bodie, Trevor Smith and Colton Orr kept seeing there names in the lineup. To me, the reason the Wings made the playoffs is the kids took advantage of injuries and openings and pushed them into the postseason, Toronto got less than nothing from the kids. Zip. 

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@Commander Clueless

Crap I missed one. I keep forgetting to mention that the Leafs did zero at the trade deadline. Nonis made no deals to improve the club and they died on the vine from non support.

 

Unfortunately they had no cap space at the deadline, and couldn't get anyone to retain salary apparently.

 

Cap mismanagement by Nonis and company, I guess.

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So for all you closet Leafers out there (so, everybody basically, right?), what can the Leafs do to improve?

 

Phaneuf and Kessel are unlikely to be moved, but I'm sure everybody is available for the right price. So who can they shift around them to change the style back to last year's type of intense, pesky game?

 

Goals:

 

1. Introduce more two-way play into the top six forwards

2. Create a 2nd/3rd line shutdown unit so Carlyle/whoever can stop using McClement as a shutdown centre and let him stick to what he's awesome at - PK specialist.

3. Introduce energy/grit to the bottom six.

4. Strengthen the defense

 

Who's available? Who can help?

 

The game is aFoote (see what I did there?).

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Truculence!!

 

Shockingly, despite the overuse of that word during Burke's tenure here, we are still lacking it. At least if you want to play to Carlyle's style. Technically, the Leafs don't need to be bruisers but they need some intensity instead of the lackidaisical bottom six they currently employ.

 

Brian Burke is an odd man to me, even when you put aside the media sideshow. He came in saying you build a team from the net out, and instead built from the wingers in. He effectively disobeyed his own team building rules.

Edited by Commander Clueless
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