January 09 2014 08:04PM
The good thing is that we've just passed one more mile marker on the long highway to Randy Carlyle's eventual firing. If an absurd and ineffective breakout strategy slash defensive zone strategy doesn't do it, the unreasonable double standard placed on skilled players should. I'm trying to quit Twitter, so I was able to miss those glorious five minutes of peace when everybody waltzed home, getting ready for a hockey game, and then realizing that Jake Gardiner would be a healthy scratch against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In this economy, I hate to advocate for people losing their jobs. Believe me, I know how rough it is when you're out there and unqualified to do little more than complain about the Toronto Maple Leafs. I don't see how Carlyle has any qualification to do any more than that. It's not the breakout or the marginalization of skill players, but Carlyle is directly responsible for the misery afforded my three favourite (at one point) Leafs: Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, and James Reimer. The result is a boring team that loses often, and, even if they were to get past this atrociously weak Eastern Conference and climb back into a playoff spot (by the way, the Leafs no longer have a playoff spot), does anybody doubt that they don't have the horses to compete against Boston, Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay?
The final score against Carolina was 6-1. The last time I watched a Leafs game and wrote a recap, the score against the Leafs was 7-1. No, I didn't grow up a Leafs fan, but I empathize will all of you that want the Leafs to lose as big and often as possible just to speed the process up and get some housecleaning done. I hate hockey now. Over the last couple of months I have been re-thinking my curious devotion to sports, and bullshit product put on the ice by Dave Nonis and Carlyle is directly responsible.
I commented in the pre-game that it would have been poetic justice for the Leafs to lose their playoff spot thanks to a two-point night by Clarke MacArthur. John-Michael Liles scoring against the Leafs is just another of those things that happened.
Again, I'm not going to blame the players. Even Jay McClement. I'm not convinced that Jay McClement is even able to play to the best of his abilities under this coaching staff. How did one of the better defensive forwards in hockey suddenly become a beacon for shots against and a free pass for struggling opposition forwards?
At any rate, Zach Boychuk opened the scoring early. Jeff Skinner scored on the powerplay after a long sequence with the puck in the Leafs end, controlled by Elias Lindholm and Alexander Semin. Joffrey Lupul briefly made it 2-1 with his 14th, but Patrick Dwyer shot a puck that squeezed through James Reimer's underarm to restore a Carolina lead by the end of the first.
More of the same in the second: constant pressure by the Hurricanes, and the Leafs unable to convert the relatively few chances they had. Down 3-1, with a lineup full of players specifically dressed to not score goals, you could tell the writing was on the wall. But then Liles scored on his two-on-one, and Carolina took their only penalty at the end of the second. Small window? Maybe. But then Jordan Staal scored shorthanded, and just for good measure, a couple of stupid penalties late gave the Hurricanes a 5-on-3 with two minutes to go and they scored their sixth on the night, all against James Reimer.
WHY THE LEAFS LOST
The Leafs out-hit Carolina 40-13.
Okay, read that sentence again, and now ask yourself why there are still analysts and writers that place such a premium on the hits statistic, without really understanding what the hits statistic measures. It basically is a record of the player in the league with the puck the least.
But "hits" isn't the only real-time scoring statistic (RTSS) that the Leafs overvalue. After a shift by McClement's line at the end of the first led to an icing, the Leafs brought out their top line for a short, ten-second stay in the offensive zone. Then for no reason whatsoever, McClement comes back out for the offensive zone draw (again, Bozak's line has been out for just 13 seconds, and Nazem Kadri's line has been on the bench for shifts by both the third and first lines) and you won't BELIEVE what happens next:
Won faceoff. Lost puck battle. Gives up near-goal against. Opposition establishes possession in attacking end. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I talk often about how marginal faceoff wins are. Being good at faceoffs is pointless if you can't do anything between the faceoffs, and that's the unfortunate reality of Jay McClement's line.
Jake Gardiner, Paul Ranger and Frazer McLaren. They were the healthy scratches, and are exempt from this mess.