Game Preview: Maple Leafs at Lightning

 

    

 

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Record

5-5-3, 13 points

7-4-2, 16 points

PP %

13.2%, 20th

22.8%, 8th

PK %

79.6%, 21st

89.8%, 3rd

Goals For

31

39

Goals Against

32

39

The Toronto Maple Leafs are slumping. Every loss is raising the temperature on Ron Wilson among the fans even as the media are beginning to ask Burke whether Wilson is in danger of losing his job. What response can be expected? That he is completely safe. One thing that’s been noted often is that Brian Burke’s biggest moves have come when they have been least expected. Changing coaches mid-season would definitely fall in that category. These trips to Florida have historically been fruitful for the Maple Leafs. They will need to be to help take the heat off of Ron Wilson.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are coming off of a chastening 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. While they have been outplayed at even strength they have a PP+PK rating (explained here) of 112.6. That is why special teams are important. If a team struggles at even strength then special teams can provide them with a way to boost their results. Leading the way on the powerplay is Steven Stamkos. You might remember him from such events as the Slide for Stamkos. With a bit better luck, a stronger general manager, and an MLSE board that didn’t put short-term gains ahead of long-term plans he might have been a Maple Leaf.  Isn’t it weird, that the board wouldn’t allow a rebuild under JFJ because they wanted to make the playoffs because that would make them more profits but now they don’t want to win because they make enough profit? Right, don’t expect logical consistency from the anti-Leafs crowd.

Jonathan Willis actually had a really good post looking at how one intelligent move by Jay Feaster could have cost them Steven Stamkos. During that same season I wrote a post that looked at how JFJ’s inability to sit on his hands had stifled the Leafs’ rebuild after the lockout. Instead of going forward with the few kids that the Leafs had, bolstered by some savvy (ha!) free agent signings, JFJ made a number of missteps. The end result was that instead of developing the kids in a coherent manner and adding picks this team took the ice and pushed the Leafs out of the lottery. Sometimes the best move is to make no move.

Time for your flashback, a Tampa-Toronto game from last year where Ron Wilson shows the emotion that some think he doesn’t behind the bench. The end result? Kind of funny actually: