Are the 2011-12 Leafs a step backwards?

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Don’t look now, but the 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs might actually do worse than the 2010-11 team. Despite Joffrey Lupul, who is now out with a separated shoulder, and Phil Kessel setting new career-highs in points, the Leafs are on pace to get just 82 points this season, compared to 85 last season.

Of course, this is due in no small part to the fact that, as Leafs GM Brian Burke recently put it, the Maple Leafs are an 18-wheeler that ran off a cliff. Toronto has won just two of its last 14 games.

Still, when the dust settles on the 2011-12 campaign, it will be judged as a whole and not just based on the last couple months of the season. Although context matters, their cold streak shouldn’t be used as an excuse to claim that they were significantly better than their final record suggests.

So what should the Leafs do moving forward? Well, Burke apparently thought that a coaching change would be part of the solution. There might even be calls to start the rebuild over from scratch. However, the Maple Leafs might be best served by being patient. After all, Toronto is the second youngest team in the NHL, according to capgeek. Burke should continue to make tweaks and look to add players when it makes sense to do so, but taking a drastic change in course could prove to be counterproductive. Leafs fans might not enjoy seeing the their team’s recent collapse, but rebuilds can be a painful process.