Toronto Maple Leafs 2010-11: Week 6
Sunday, November 7, 2010. Toronto Maple Leafs record 5-5-3, 13 points, 5 game losing streak
Leading scorer: Clarke Macarthur, 7G, 4A, 11 pts
The week finds things in Leafland are not well. Toronto has slipped to 11th in the conference. They face a 2 game road trip to Tampa and Florida, before returning for a Saturday night game against Vancouver. They have lost their last 5 games by a combined score of 8-13, and are 1-5-3 since the 4-0-0 start. They were shutout in back to back games, and have lost their last 2 by shootout, even though they held late 3rd period leads in those games. Giguere and Gustavsson have posted excellent numbers. Grabovski, Kulemin and Macarthur are putting up a point a game each. But Kessel has disappeared in the past 5 games. Versteeg is inconsistent in producing. And the young forwards, like Bozak, Caputi and Hanson, are producing next to nothing. And late in games, players are taking poor penalties, or the defensive coverage is breaking down. and whatever slim lead the Leafs have is being erased.
And unfortunately, the tune remains the same. No change from the lineup that lost a shootout to Buffalo. And once again, the inability to create offense, especially against a team boasting Stamkos, Lecavalier and company, led to a 4-0 whitewash. A frustrated JS Giguere called out his teammates for not playing with enough desperation. And Ron Wilson, his job deemed ‘safe’ by pal Brian Burke, reminded us that a team needs to score goals,and that not scoring on a 5-3 powerplay really hurt the Leafs’ chances.
The next night in Florida, the Buds extended a scoreless streak to 142 minutes (after last week’s 167 minutes goalless), allowing another 4 before Mikhail Grabovski, who admittedly has worked very hard and played well with second-line mates Kulemin and Macarthur, managed to get one by Tomas Vokoun. Somewhat reminiscent of Nero’s fiddling as Rome burned, Coach Wilson sat rookie Korbinian Holzer after his first 2 NHL games, as well as Luca Caputi, in favour of Gunnarsson and Hanson getting in the mix again.
So, with the losing skid up to 7 games, the special teams dropping like stones in effectiveness, and an inability for the Leafs’ scorers to get anything going, calls have come quickly that maybe the coach is the issue, and maybe he should go.
Friday saw what some are calling a desperation move. After denying any plans to call him up, Burke summoned Nazem Kadri for Saturday’s game against Vancouver. Also, Keith Aulie was brought up, with Korbinian Holzer sent down after only 2 games. In a tight trade market, it would seem this is the last move Burke can make before having to dump buddy Ron Wilson as coach. What will it take for this move to be deemed a success?
Well, the end result was a 5-3 loss to the Canucks. It should be said there were some positives and some negatives to highlight in this game.
The positives? The Leafs scored the first 2 goals. Fred Sjostrom got his first, while Grabovski is hot, scoring his 3rd in 4 games. Kessel got one to break his goalless string. Kadri played fairly well, not looking out of place with the NHLers. Keith Aulie played a solid 14 minutes, showing he may also be ready to step it up.
Negatives? The Leafs’ penalty kill allowed the Canucks a couple goals. Kadri flubbed a perfect chance to show some offensive wizardry when he lost the handle on a 3-on-1 with the score tied 3-3. Kessel scored but was not truly a factor on the night. And JS Giguere, having recently called out teammates on their effort, allowed a long shot from outside the circle by Mason Raymond to beat him 5-hole for the game winning goal. Giguere had played well all game, but this momentary mistake became the turning point.
The week ends with the Leafs having lost 8 straight, and now sitting 13th, 4 points out of the final playoff spot. A better effort was seen in Saturday’s game, and that’s a lesson this team will have to take to heart of they intend to break the losing spell. Toronto hosts Nashville Tuesday, New Jersey Thursday, before heading to Montreal for a traditional Saturday night.