Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The land of misfit toys

The Maple Leafs play the game better than anyone else.

The blame game, that is.

"I don't know what security is doing. It seems like we're giving the guy a couple minutes to flip everybody off and mock real fans," said Nazem Kadri following the Leafs loss Monday night against the Hurricanes at the ACC.

Yeah, it's security's fault.

Maybe that example is unfair, but the issue digs deeper.

Ron Wilson blames Phil Kessel.

CEO Tim Leiweke blames unnamed top players.

Dave Nonis blames Randy Carlyle.

Brendan Shanahan likely blames Nonis.

Fans blame Shanahan.

Another 18-wheeler has driven off the cliff. The only problem is this time nobody knows who is sitting in the driver's seat.

The firing of Randy Carlyle was clearly a mistake. And now a lame duck interim coach is a fish out of water.

The funny thing about this whole thing is the predictable final outcome. Well funny to some, not so funny to others...

At some point, the Leafs will turn the slide around, but it will be too late. They'll make a late push when they are all but eliminated from playoff contention. Because of this, Toronto will have another first round draft selection that will be in the 7-10 range. Mediocrity forever.

Because of the missed playoffs, the Leafs will make some moves. But because of the untradable contracts, they'll be forced to trade the wrong players.

Out goes Joffrey Lupul, Cody Franson and possibly JVR. The team remains stuck with Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson.

It's not to suggest that these players are bad. Or that single handedly they are the problem. But they represent the flaws in team building and vision that an organization must have if they want to accomplish the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.

Certainly a team can win with Kessel. But the TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS cannot, and definitely not with him as their top player.

There's plenty of examples of fantastic hockey players that you wouldn't want to label as "the guy." Some guys produce at a great clip, but are much more suited to be in a complimentary role. Jakub Voracek (currently leads the league in scoring), Patrick Kane, Tyler Johnson, Kyle Okposo, Nikita Kucherov, Vladimir Tarasenko and Nick Foligno highlight players in the top-20 of NHL scoring that most people would take on their team any day. Try to build around any of those guys, on their own, in a market like Toronto. It just won't work.

If we try to prognosticate even further into the future, next fall when everyone starts off with a clean slate, the Leafs rush an undersized and underdeveloped William Nylander because, well, this is what the Leafs do.

The solution to the underlying issues aren't so clear. And at this point in time, the answer as to who is driving the truck is equally confusing.

- Mitchy

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