Friday, 8 January 2010

Maple Leafs Update

I'm glad I have this contest running where I'll give away a Maple Leafs jersey this season if the Leafs eclipse their 81 points from last season. With the season looking like an unmitigated disaster at this point, it appears I won't have to spend any of my hard-earned cash on the Maple Leafs rag. In all seriousness, though, the Leafs are struggling right now, and head coach Ron Wilson ripped the team publicly in an expletive-laced tirade yesterday. Making the playoffs at this point would be a minor miracle, and obtaining a ring is downright insane. Without a doubt, there are problems in Leafs Nation that need to be addressed.

Let's just take a long look at why I'm confident that this 81-point plateau isn't going to be reached.

First off, the Maple Leafs have played 45 games, acquiring 39 points thus far. While it's not a stretch to suggest that they can play .500 hockey down the stretch, the Leafs would have to go 21-15-1 over their last 37 games to reach 82 points. For a team that hasn't played above .500 hockey all season, this seems like a big task from this collection of misfits.

I'm going to say that this build-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics for both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson will only further hurt their team's chances of making to 82 points.

Burke rarely entertains trade offers unless he gets real value in return. The problem is that outside of Phil Kessel and Tomas Kaberle, there isn't a lot of trade bait that can be dangled in front of teams to try and pry away a budding star. If you're a GM, why would you even consider Toronto as a possible trade partner unless you're looking for spare parts on a deep playoff run?

Wilson is the real test here. He goes from coaching one of the worst teams in the NHL to coaching America's best as he assumes the helm for Team USA at the Olympics. While Peter Laviolette's crew ended up in eighth-place in Torino, what does Wilson's squad have in store that we haven't seen in the NHL? He'll demand hard work and winning puck battles and all the same rhetoric, but how many players will actually buy into his seemingly flawed system he is running in Toronto? If I'm goaltenders Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas, I had better be prepared to see a lot of pucks.

Of course, all this is simply speculation. By going 21-15-1 in their remaining 37 games, this can all change, and I'll eat some crow. However, my money is on the Leafs dropping the ball this season.

Haven't we seen enough examples of that already this year?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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