Say what you will about the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, but when things were going well, that team could light up the scoreboard. Unfortunately for Buds fans, other teams lit up the scoreboard far more often – especially when it all fell apart at the end of the year.
There are basically two ways to judge those results. One side is to say that a high-octane style could work – particularly considering the personnel on hand – if the defense and goaltending was simply adequate. The other is to say that the team needs to embrace big-picture NHL trends of going defense-first. Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle sides heavily with choice “B,” as he told Kevin McGran.
“I look at the way (the Kings) played and the type of team they had was very similar to what we had in 2007 (in Anaheim),” Carlyle said. “It was a grinding type of puck movement (in the playoffs) … There wasn’t a lot of goals scored off the rush. There was a lot more special teams in the games.”
This is the kind of hockey Carlyle wants his Leafs to play.
The big question is: do the Leafs have the makeup of a team that can grind out a lot of low-scoring, one-goal wins? Let’s not forget that along with a deep group of forwards, the Kings employed one of – if not the – best defense corps in the NHL and an undeniably elite goalie in Jonathan Quick.
A question of personnel
Is there anything resembling that in Toronto? Dion Phaneuf once came into the league with Drew Doughty-type acclaim, but he seemed to plateau in Calgary.* James Reimer showed flourishes until a concussion derailed his season, so the Quick element isn’t there, either.
If you ask me, the Leafs were at their best when Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were shocking the hockey world with their fantastic, frenetic play. Their best off-season move so far involved letting go a once-promising defenseman (Luke Schenn) for a hopeful power forward in the making (James van Riemsdyk).
Of course, the key phrase is “so far.” Perhaps Toronto can add some talent in net and some stability on the blueline. Otherwise, it’ll take some fantastic coaching from Carlyle if the Maple Leafs want to look anything like the Kings.
(Other than the “struggling to get into the playoffs” part, that is.)
* – There is talk that he’s improve, yet that dialogue has a “he’s not all that bad” tone.
(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)