So throughout this season the Leafs coming out of the All-Star break right around 6th-8th looking in decent shape to maybe make the playoffs with the other teams in the East really folding and the Sabres haven't gone on their ridiculous run yet and with the Leafs usually going on the run near the trade deadline towards the end they were in good shape to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004
After the All-Star break and even once the trade deadline the Leafs went 6-17-3 after February 6th ruining all the good that they did the first 4 months,
I sit here looking at that along with the last 26 games screaming WHAT THE BLEEP HAPPENNED!!!!!!
The goaltending which has been somewhat average at times during the year took a real dive Reimer has not looked right since getting dinged by Brian Gionta on October 22nd giving him "concussion like symptoms" he's been deep in his crease and hasn't looked the same ever since. He's still young where I think having a veteran goalie would help him problem is ugh there isn't much available and then Gustavsson has some games where he has been good and then some games like against Carolina and various other games during the last couple months.
The defense has so much potiential to be good yet makes me want to throw my TV out the window though I can't really lift my TV so thats kind of hard to do. Komisarek has been a healthy scratch a lot this year and hasn't lived up to anywhere close to his contract(begging for an amnesty clause in the next CBA), Franson has been a healthy scratch during most of the games Carlyle has been the coach, Liles has not looked the same since his contract extension more then less the concussion he got earlier in the season, Schenn has been inconsistent, Phaneuf hasn't looked like the player he was from the beginning of the season which is the same for many of the players.
The 2 bright spots on the defense has been the Jake Gardiner who has probably been the best defenseman on the team this year and Carl Gunnarsson is I think one of the most underrated defenseman in the league I really think it would be a mistake to trade either of these 2 guys plus with Jesse Blacker and Korbinian Holzer are young players that I think could potientially be good defensemen in a couple years
The forwards well the scoring has been pretty much 2 guys Lupul and Kessel and when Lupul went out Kessel's production slowly declined it also doesn't hurt that they still don't have a #1 centre for Kessel and Tim Connolly who was signed to be that has been so awful this year he was demoted to the 3rd line but the big thing that has regressed this year is the line that was the Leafs best line last year Grabovski-Kulemin-MacArthur has been so inconsistent this year. Nikolai Kulemin has gone from a 15 goal scorer in his rookie year to a 16 goal scorer to a 31 goal scorer last year all the way down to 7 goals his worst career numbers ever. His only worse numbers than that were back in 2005-06 with Metallurg Magnitogorsk where he had 13 points but that was in 31 games compared to the 28 in this season that took 70 games. Thats right 70 freaking games.
Some of the other forwards on the bottom 6 are kind of okay Steckel is alright at what he does kills penalties, wins faceoffs, Frattin has shown flashes he could do something, Carter Ashton who was aquired at the trade deadline could be a decent 3rd line player with some grit in his game but there's a lot of dead weight on here from Colby Armstrong, Mathew Lombardi who for a combined $6.5 million haven't really done much of anything. I don't mind Tyler Bozak his contract is affordable $1.5 million and he is a decent player I don't see him as 1st line centre I think he's decent if he's 3rd line centre
For next year here's what I would do or attempt to do/not do
1. Find a veteran backup goalie
That veteran I would push for is either Josh Harding who has shown to be decent at times with Minnesota or you could try Tomas Vokoun I know he has had an up and down year but he was great on a terrible Florida team 2 years ago and there's not really any other good options besides that
Cory Schneider there's no way Vancouver with their cap space is going to be able to keep both goalies and Luongo is loved by the owners and has a full no-trade clause and with Schneider being a RFA I think something like Schenn a prospect and next year's 1st or this year's 2nd would do it. I would not trade this year's 1st round pick for anything. They can't go into next year with just Reimer and Scrivens/Rynnas
2. Do not trade for Ric Nash
Now why would I say this well 1. doesn't improve need at centre, 2. Will have to cost Jake Gardiner and this year's 1st round pick to so. 3. Doesn't improve glaring need at centre.
3. Play the younger guys next year
I see no problem giving guys like Kadri and Colbourne an opportunity to see if they can be the guy at centre Kadri has the talent to be it and Colbourne could be it and hasn't had a lot of chances in the NHL next year could be his shot
4. Dump Connolly and/or Lombardi's contracts in minors or buyout
I think buying out Connolly's contract makes more sense out of the 2 signing has been a big mistake all year Lombardi you could probably waive and bury in the minors with ease for the record I almost would consider the same thing with Colby Armstrong I love the grit in his game but he's always hurt and doesn't score enough
5. Free Agency Ugh!!!
The list of free agency is terrible after 2 guys Ryan Suter and Zach Parise and I doubt either are coming here I would press to get Parise but why would he leave New Jersey to come to Toronto? Exactly
6. Unless its an overwhelming offer I would not trade the 1st round pick
There are some quality players available the Leafs could have a shot at Yakupov (they need to finsh at least in final 5 of the lottery for that) and there 5 or 6 players I would be ok with having Grigorenko and Galchenyuk, even though he hasn't played a game this year with a knee injury, Filip Forsberg a winger and Mathew Dumba the top ranked defenseman are all guys I would be ok with having likely involves a top 5 pick which the Leafs look like they are heading the only way you are getting better in this era is drafting and developing players trading this pick for anything to me makes no sense at this point even if its for Cory Schneider
Anything else to add comment below or follow me on twitter @DArm91