When I die I want the Maple Leafs to be my pallbearer, so they can let me down one last time.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…well…yeah it got worse. The Leafs drop their 7th then 8th straight games in regulation, which is a longer losing streak since 2009-10 when they lost 7 in a row in regulation. Oh, and who were the goalies in that stretch? Vesa Toskala, Jonas Gustavsson, and, wait for it…Joey MacDonald. The losing streak was snapped 9 games into the season in a game I was at against Anaheim, in which Jonas Gustavsson recorded his first NHL win. Anyway, this latest Leafs loss to Detroit was also the catalyst to my twitter rant. This was my first ever twitter rant! I’d like to thank the academy for allowing me to rant online. My first tweet of the rant started with this, and from there, I went ferocious, spelling error filled rant on the Leafs, so if you want to read my feelings, you can.
Anyway, the Leafs lost another game in probably the worst possible time to lose eight in a row ever. I don’t even want to talk about the games, just the scores will do. Leafs lose 4-2 to Philadelphia, then lost 4-2 to the Grand Rapids— I mean Detroit Red Wings. I noticed a lot of things in these games that weren’t to my liking.
Trading Liles sounded like a pretty good idea at the time right? Trade an aging offensive defenceman with a huge salary, maybe acquire a draft pick, or even a younger prospect. But nope, management goes out there and gets more tenacity and toughness, when they acquire a more expensive, just as old d-man, in Tim Gleason. Let me tell you, a puck moving defenceman would really come in handy right about now, because all I see Gleason doing on the ice is getting the puck in the defensive zone, ringing around the boards, or making a beautiful, crisp pass to the opposing team just outside the blue line or occasionally, the red line. Sit him. It’s a very simple move. I am more confident in PAUL RANGER than I am with Gleason. Ranger is healthy, get him back in the lineup, at least he can move the puck better than Gleason’s PeeWee style of hockey. Don’t get me wrong, he does dirty work when blocking shots, and battles hard in a lot of the corner battles, but pairing him with a rookie is not the best thing to do.
Not everything goes according to plan every night in the NHL, but when things aren’t going the way they should be for months at a time and there’s nothing being fixed, there’s a problem. Let’s go through the pairs now.
Pairing 1 – Phaneuf Gunnarsson: Okay, pretty solid. Gunnarsson is very reliable, and I know he hasnt had his best couple of weeks, but Phaneuf is still a great d-man. Maybe don’t play him as much and you have an alright number one pairing.
Pairing 2 – Franson Gardiner: With this pair, you have two players that desperately want to be a part of the offense, but only one of them can keep up. That one player is Gardiner. He pinches in every now and then and generates some pretty good scoring chances. Gardiner doesn’t get back 100%, but he has the wheels to get back and help out when he’s caught pinching, I’d say 85% percent of the time. Franson on the other hand, very good skill, great hands for a big guy, but has absolutely zero foot speed. He creates chances in the offensive zone, but can’t recover, and help his partner in an odd man rush, or breakaway situation. A great example of what I’m talking about was on Darren Helm’s third goal last night. It was ultimately the dagger in the heart of the Leafs last night.
Pairing 3 – Rielly Gleason: I just bagged on Gleason so I’m not gonna repeat myself, but in summary, he’s my least favorite player on the team right now. Rielly on the other hand, is a rising star, and is getting better and more experienced every night. Putting him on a line with an irresponsible defenceman like Gleason, is unacceptable on Carlyle’s behalf. Personally, I would love to see him paired with Gardiner, but that’s too risky, as they are both extremely offensively lopsided d-men.
Future, Hopeful Defensive Pairings:
Pairing 1 – Phaneuf Rielly: For now, put Rielly with a veteran like Phaneuf. Rielly can move the puck up which takes a lot of pressure off Phaneuf.
Pairing 2 – Gunnarsson Franson: Gunnarsson can hopefully try to cover up for Franson’s defensive liabilities, while Franson provides the offense. Both of these guys can move the puck out of the zone, but I’d like to see Franson pass rather than skate it out more often.
Pairing 3 – Gardiner Ranger: The last pairing, assuming he’s healthy, is Gardiner and Ranger. Despite the embarrassing last couple weeks the Leaf have had, Gardiner has proved to fans and management, that he is the real deal on the blue line. Offensively and defensively, he has been number one on the team as of late. Pairing him with Paul Ranger may be risky because Ranger likes to jump into the rush even though he should probably stay back, however, this pairing could work out for the Leafs on both ends of the ice.
I don’t know if Nonis wants the Marlies to win a Calder Cup really badly, but he is playing the wrong players on the Leafs right now. Players like Peter Holland, Trevor Smith, Spencer Abbott, and T.J Brennan deserve chances to play on the big club. On a side note, Drew MacIntyre 100% should have started the back to back game Reimer got pulled in. Anyway, Colton Orr is not an NHL player, he is an NHL enforcer, but not a player. The Leafs have got to stop playing him and call someone up. Oh, they did…Jerry D’Amigo?!? Dont get me wrong, I really like Jerry D’Amigo, but he is not at an NHL caliber, nor should he be playing this late in the season at a time like this. Players who can create offense, maybe even guys that are Top 2 in AHL scoring should get a crack at the Leafs, maybe #2 in AHL scoring, Spencer Abbott can get a chance. He got one earlier this season and looked pretty good. Call him up over D’Amigo.
D’Amigo is speedy and aggressive, a great energy player, but this isn’t what the Leafs need right now. They need goals to back up their defensive miscues. As much energy as he brings to the team, and as much as I love him, Troy Bodie is offensive garbage. All of the goals he’s scored this year have been pretty lucky, so maybe bring up Holland or Smith to take his place. You know what, bring up Holland just to take McClement’s place on a line. He still deserves a roster spot because of his face-offs and penalty kills, after all, that’s all McClement does. After the second line, there is only role players, no offense. That is the problem. Put Raymond with Kadri and Lupul too. I’d rather have Josh Leivo in my lineup right now rather than guys like Kulie and Clarkson, because they have generated almost no offense. Call up T.J Brennan, he’s a defenceman in the Top 10 of AHL scoring. He has to be better than Tim Gleason.
Do something, anything different than what the team looks like now! Something’s not right with this Maple Leafs team, and some things have got to change. The bottom line is that through 8 straight games of losing, the only natural changes made to the lineup have been sending down Holland, playing Orr, then scratching Orr and playing D’Amigo, the offensive superstar! I don’t get it, I just don’t understand how they could let 2nd place in the Atlantic slip so far away from them, that they are now 10th in the eastern conference, with a 4.9% chance of playoffs.
Next up is Calgary, and if we don’t beat Calgary, I don’t even…I don’t know what actions may conspire from this. Good Luck Leafs, I’m still loyal, just really disappointed and upset.
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I'm a young sportswriter covering the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL.
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