Year after year the Toronto Maple Leafs make big off season changes in a hope end the 40 year Stanley Cup drought. This off season was no different. Trading the 1st round pick in last years NHL entry draft for goaltender Vesa Toskala & forward Mark Bell, and signing 40-goal man & unrestricted free agent to a 5-year/$20 Million contract. The Leafs management failed to make changes on the back-end which is where the Leafs struggles have been over the last few year, there are plenty of guys back there who can move the puck and put up points on the board, at times putting up more points then the forwards. But the Leafs have failed to address the biggest problem the hockey club has, and that is defensive play in there own end. This was made clear in after Tuesdays 7-1 loss at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Leafs need to make some changes on the back-end at this point its not likely they are going to bring in the impact defensive defensemen that they need so in order to address the issue the Leafs need to shake up the defensive pairings. Clearly having the 2 big more defensive d-men, Woznewski and Gill together isn't the solution. These would be the D-parings I would use.
1) Thomas Kaberle & Bryan McCabe
2) Pavel Kubina & Andy Woznewski
3) Hall Gill & Ian White
McCabe and Kaberle are very comfortable playing together and I think with them re-united it would help spark the Leafs offense in the absence of a Kyle Wellwood the #2 Center. When Carlo Coliacovo returns to the line-up he would join Kubina in the 2nd-pairing. They arent near as offensive as Kaberle and McCabe but still have some offensive abilities and are more responsible in there own end then McCabe or Kaberle are. The 3rd-pairing of Gill & White was a pair Maurice leaned on heavily last year on the PK, and in situations where he needed good defensive play, They compliment each other very well and White has some good offensive upside, and owns a big shot, and is starting to show more puck carrying abilities.
The Forwards have been a major concern to start the season, there seems to be a very limited amount of chemistry between players I think Maurice needs to shake things up, and to make it worse they Leafs forwards have not been playing well defensively often leaving there d-men and goalie out to dry. On a team that doesn't have a particularly strong defensive d-corps the forwards need to come back and help out in there own end. They Leafs will never be a trapping team, and nor do I want them to be a trapping, they have too many skilled guys, and too many guys without great defensive abilities upfront. They Leafs need to go back to a dump & chase type of team like they did last year where the had good success at it. Dump it in and get a hard fore check going, instead of trying carry it across the line make 18 passes and make Sportscenter every night.
The Leafs age long problem of lack of discipline seems to be back taking stupid penalty after stupid penalty, the Refs are calling the game different now or whatever excuse you choose to try and justify isn't valid because even under Pat Quinn in the "Old NHL" the Leafs took way too many penalties.
The Leafs need to stop taking stupid penalties, Play defense as a 5 man unit, and stop hanging the goalies out dry. Toskala showed in Tuesdays game that he has the ability to keep the Leafs in the game, he stood on his head for the first 20 minutes of the game and the Leafs failed to feed off that. But if they address the issues I mentioned above, the goal tending will take care of itself and I believe they will be a Playoff team, if they fail to address these issues its going to be a long season.