Another year and yet another loss. Every year it becomes more excuses. So here comes every leaf fan's favourite part. How to fix the leafs? To solve this problem, lets look at what happened.
The leafs had a great regular season of more consistency than usual. But throughout the season, small items looked to become bigger. Thornton was showing his age each day. Near the end, he went from useful on the ice to useful in leadership only. Simmonds came back a very small fraction of himself after his injury. Malhotra, Keefe and Dubas never say an ailing power play as a problem.
Playoff time comes and lo and behold. Tavares is injured. Great luck for the Canadiens, because if you think of all 1 goal games, his injury helped the Canadiens win. For the leafs it became an excuse and no injury should ever be an excuse. I remember a playoff were the leafs reached the conference finals on the behalf of Alyn McCauley because our star and Captain Sundin was injured.
Fans like to blame, and yes Marner deserves some hate, but I remember seeing a stat this ear that showed Marner having more PPG since the beginning of the core four in the playoffs. That shows he doesnt always disappear. That being said, his mistakes with the penalties is a trend I don't want continuing.
What are some of the problems then? First grit, yes you heard me grit. But grit as in power forward. We need a Wayne Simmonds, Corey Perry in their prime. The forward that stands in front of the net regardless. That forward can play of the power play creating havoc. Tom Wilson, Sean Avery, Tkachuk, I can go on.
Second, too much trust in the veterans. Thornton, Simmonds were given too much leash They are not Spezza 2.0. They were not bad, but they did not move the needle at all. Which brings us to the next question, what to do with our UFAs. Simple try to convince Hyman to sign for 5.25 million no more home town discount. Hope he takes it. Bogosian for the same price is worth it. Rittich and Foligno if they want to stay need to take major discounts otherwise bye bye.
Out of the free agents who can help? A few names come to mind but depends on the price tag. For forward: Saad, Coleman and maybe Perry. Perry showed if we play him in 3rd/4th line role but don't rely where if we have to scratch, scratch him he can be useful. There is not many forwards we can go for with a decent price tag. Defence: Chara (yes chara), Marc Staal and maybe Edler. We don't need a top four as Brodie solves that. We could use a veteran like Bogosian, Staal to teach in a 3rd pairing role. Goalie: Dreidger, Bernier, Reimer. We need a 1 b goalie who can potentially replace Campbell if the starters load is too much.
Lastly trade market. I agree with Dubas you don't just trade your stars. But that doesn't mean you cant listen. If we are to trade a core four member we need to absolutely win that trade now and the future. This doesn't eliminate two very useful and needed players that could maybe with ingenuity be replaced for less. Rielly and Kerfoot.
This off season will not be easy, but we can come out of it better with the core four intact.