LEAFS' NEXT 16 WILL DECIDE IT ALL

Steve Lansky
December 27 2010 01:51PM

The Christmas break is over so, after 34 games, the time is now for your Toronto Maple Leafs. Although some Poindexter with a calculator will likely try and prove me wrong, if the Leafs are going to make a bold move up the standings, it will have to be in over the next 16 games. Typically, teams, who make major in-season standings’ improvements, do it before Game 50. Right now, the club sits ten points out of the 8th playoff spot. That’s not very far…but the move must start now.

The Boston Bruins, in eighth spot, have only five more wins than the Leafs. Frankly, that’s nothing to make up. Five of the Leafs’ next sixteen games are against teams that hold spots between Toronto and that coveted playoff spot. Now, if you want to get technical, they began the move Sunday night in New Jersey. Excellent start. Great defence. Almost all New Jersey’s shots came from the perimeter. And, Martin Brodeur stinks. That helped.

I suspect the real deal-maker (-breaker) among those sixteen games will be a three-game trip to California. It's Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix in the middle of January. And, if the Leafs do what they did in Western Canada in December (take just two of a possible six points), it would be a major blow.

Just before the break, GM Brian Burke said that changes in Toronto were in the wind. How big those changes might be, only Burke knows. While I continue to think a correct fix might be replacing Ron Wilson, I believe Burke when he says he’s committed to his coach.

What can Burke deliver? He suggests that a big winger, to plant himself in front of the net, is a priority. Many fans feel a centre who can get Phil Kessel the puck is paramount. Burke says he will make a move soon. Just prior to Christmas, that’s what he told the Toronto Star’s Vinay Menon. Burke is a lot of things, but a liar isn’t one of them. A move is coming. But can he make one big enough?

Another small obstacle facing the Leafs is the number of teams they have to climb over to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s often insurmountable in March…but this is December. Last year, at this very time, the Philadelphia Flyers sat in fourth place in their division – and out of a playoff spot. Montreal sat fourth in theirs. You know how those stories played out.

I refuse to believe this Leafs’ season is lost but, if they still sit thirteenth in the conference after 50 games, they’re done. That’s the focal point.
 

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Steve Lansky's first exposure to the game was at storied Maple Leaf Gardens, running downstairs at the end of every period just to watch the great Dave Keon walk off the ice to the room. A decade later, while he was still in high school, Oilers' head coach Glen Sather asked Lansky, "Hey, how'd you like to be our team statistician?" In 1983, at the age of 22, Lansky became the youngest producer in the history of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, giving him a front-row seat to the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty. Lansky also helped launch Rogers Sportsnet's fledgling hockey coverage when the network made its début in 1998. You can follow him at bigmouthsports.com and at twitter.com/bigmouthsports
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#1 CoryNewb
December 31 2010, 02:46PM
Trash it!
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So...fire Wilson, get a "Dan Bylsma-esque" coach behind the bench, get points in 14 of their next 16, and make a run for it? I'm in.

I don't mean a coach that is similar to the Pens coach, but mostly just a coach that can do what he did a few years ago with the pens.

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