The Leafs lead the NHL with 122 goals for, yet they've given up 108 goals. Their success this season can be attributed to their offense as it has masked their defensive issues while on nights like tonight, they're exposed. As December is ending, the Leafs are in a comfortable playoff position, yet the fans are feeling very uneasy.
The rest of the NHL tends to buckle down defensively in January in anticipation of the playoffs. Trades are made to fill holes in the line-up. Players compete harder and the physicality ramps up a notch or two. Goals become tougher to obtain. Teams attack harder making the task of defending much more difficult. The question is, "Can this Leafs team weather the storm?"
The logical answer is, "No." This core has a proven track record of "driving an eighteen-wheeler off the cliff". Several times! Now if this core is so unreliable, then what should management do?
The logical answer would be for management to weather their own storm; the developmental storm. They have the pieces to make quite an interesting team, yet lack THE key pieces. A number one center and a number one defenceman. Now how would they obtain them? Trading for either one is quite a rare phenomenon, so you have a much higher chance of drafting one.
Now this is where the major problem occurs. Middling out year after year. This is why the fans claim the team and management are content with mediocrity. The Leafs need to get bad. Real bad! Well, at least for a year in order to snag one real stud center or defenceman. If any year is one to "tank", this would be the year to do so. Do I think they'll land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel this year? Only if the hockey Gods deem them worthy and grant them unfathomable luck! But on the bright side, this draft is loaded with high end talent in the top 10.
If the Leafs can't weather the storm, don't worry so much, you will thank them for years to come. If they do indeed weather the storm and make the playoffs, one can't complain. I'm excited for either outcome. I do implore management to start making better decisions. Put your team in a position for future success when needed. You don't need to pull an Edmonton, you need to pick your spot and be aggressive in obtaining that true franchise player. This team is going nowhere without one.
-- In the next blog, I'll illustrate the pieces the Leafs have that would make quite an interesting team. --