Toronto Maple Leafs Still Searching For Consistency
December 3, 2010 Leave a comment
Through their first 23 games, the Maple Leafs have had three major stretches: a four-game winning streak that came in the first four games, an eight-game losing streak and a stretch in which they won three out of four games. As you can see, the Maple Leafs haven’t exactly been the most consistent team in the National Hockey League this season.
A lot of that blame can be placed on Phil Kessel. Kessel, a potential 30-40 goal scorer, has just ten goals and four assists in 24 games this season. Kessel started the season with seven goals in his first eight games, but has since tailed off.
The 23-year-old’s poor play certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, as his lack of effort has forced him into head coach Ron Wilson’s “dog house” multiple times this season.
Kris Versteeg meanwhile, also has 14 points, but in one less game. Those statistics put him on pace for 58 points, which would be the second most total in his NHL career.
Although 48 points seems like a good season, it would be deemed a poor one for Versteeg, who is being expected to thrive off of top-six minutes, something he didn’t get in Chicago. He started slowly, but with eight points in his last 11 games, Versteeg has been playing extremely well. He too will need to become consistently good for the Maple Leafs to make any charge at the post-season.
Many would be quick to point out that the acquisition of a top-line centre to play with Kessel and Versteeg would help the two, but that cannot be used as an excuse.
But of course, not all the blame can be placed on just two players.
Dion Phaneuf, although currently injured, is off to a very slow start this season. The 6’3″, 214 pound defenseman has played in 11 games this season and has a minus-6 rating. This lack of effort and what looks like a lack of passion has been put into question by almost everyone this season.
Phaneuf, the team captain, is expected to lead the team. If he isn’t able to lead the team on the ice, he certainly can’t having an easy time leading them in the dressing room.
Despite his poor play, Phaneuf’s return to the lineup definitely won’t hurt, as he is still a very useful asset.
The 25-year-old has scored 77 goals in his NHL career, 48 of which were scored on the power play. His big shot and offensive ability should help the Maple Leafs.
Other Maple Leafs defencemen still looking to find their way this season include Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek, both of whom have felt the pressure from the Toronto fans and media to do better.
Someone who has not struggled all that much, however, is Luke Schenn. The third-year defenceman is plus-1 in 24 games this season and has been one of the most stellar and consistent Maple Leafs all season long. With six points so far, Schenn is on pace to score a career-high 20 points this season.
Despite the importance of offence and defence, goaltending is one of the most important aspects of hockey, and the Maple Leafs have it. With Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastien Giguere splitting time in net, the Leafs always have an above-average goalie as their last line of defence.
In 13 appearances this season, Giguere, who just returned from a groin injury, has a goals against average of 2.90 and a save percentage of .890.
Gustavsson, meanwhile, was more than impressive during Giguere’s time away. The sophomore goalie has a record of just 3-7-2, but has a goals against average of 2.66 and a save percentage of .910. Unfortunately for Gustavsson, the Leafs haven’t been giving him very much offensive support, something that he and Giguere need in order to win games.
If the Maple Leafs can get going offensively, they should be able to find some consistency and possibly even climb into the playoff picture. However, that is easier said than done. The Leafs sit in the bottom five in the entire league when it comes to finding the back of the net and there are no signs of that changing any time soon.
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