Leafs Post-Game: Nine Times

I don’t know what to tell you anymore.  Some nights the Leafs look pretty good, and others they don’t.  But it doesn’t seem to matter.  Whatever they do, however they play, they always lose.  The Leafs slipped further in the standings tonight, falling 1-0 to the Philadelphia Flyers.  In the Leafs last nine games, they have lost nine times.

THE RUNDOWN

All the talk is about how the Leafs just don’t have it right now, that they look lost, that Peter Horachek’s message isn’t getting through.  That talk continued in the first period as Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, and Glenn Healy continually criticized the Leafs awful play.

I’d like to sit here and tell you that there is truth to that notion, but I just can’t.  The Leafs are playing better hockey under Peter Horachek.  They really are.  And it looked that way again tonight.

Sure, Michael Del Zotto scored 5 minutes into the period.  Sure the Leafs just keep on losing.  But I refuse to sit here and tell you the team looks worse under Horachek then they did under Randy Carlyle.  It’s just not true.

The Leafs played a pretty good opening period.  They had some chances to score and they played a pretty tight game.  Yes, they left the period down 1-0.  But as has been the case a lot of nights recently, the play really wasn’t all that bad.

Alright, rant over.

Not too much happened in the second period, aside from a frantic Flyers powerplay in which Peter Holland get robbed on a partial break and Vinny Lecavelier hit the post.  Still 1-0 Flyers after 2.

The Leafs poured it on in the third.  They threw everything they could at Steve Mason.  They hammered Philadelphia with shots and dominated the territorial play.  They had a late powerplay.  They had one last glorious chance from Phil Kessel with just seconds left.

But it wasn’t enough.

The Leafs outshot Philadelphia 30-18 and were all things considered the better team.  But as has been routine of late, the Leafs got no rewards.  They were shutout again.  And they ended the month with a an exclamation mark: January 2015 is the lowest-scoring January in Leafs franchise history.

BLUE WARRIOR

I really liked Peter Holland tonight.  He was in on 3 or 4 really good scoring chances.  It’s too bad he couldn’t get on the score sheet, but this was certainly his best game since returning from injury.  He’s tonight’s Blue Warrior.

NOTES

  • The Leafs have outshot their opponents 7 times in the 11 games under Peter Horachek.  Sorry anti-statsers but I gotta say it, winning 1 game out of 11 with that sort of production isn’t sustainable.
  • Rumor roundup: according to Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie, Daniel Winnik is drawing a good amount of interest.  Winnipeg has been scouting him, and the Pittsburgh Penguins had some interest before trading for Max Lapierre.  McKenzie adds that Santorelli, Winnik, and Franson will probably all be dealt ahead of the March 2nd trade deadline.  He also believes Dave Nonis isn’t likely to be back next year, but wouldn’t rule it out.
  • Elliotte Friedman adds that the Leafs recently tried to get a long-term deal done with Franson that included an AAV in the $4.6 million range.  Friedman also notes that while Brendan Shanahan’s preferred replacement to Dave Nonis may be Rob Blake, there is no chance Blake leaves his home in Southern California to come manage in Toronto.

SEE YOU TUESDAY

The Leafs are heading down south Tuesday to play the Nashville Predators.  The game is at 8:00PM Eastern on TSN4.

    • TGT23

      It’s because he refuses to use a regular stick and insists on using a 65 flex jr stick. Sacrifice a little bit of shot quickness and the rest of his game with the puck will improve dramatically.

    • Poluza

      I think this it true too.

      When I played junior hockey, I remember my coach being upset at our best player because he continually mussed the net. It was because the player was in a scoring slump, and was also trying to shoot for the top corners every time. I’ve noticed that Kessel shoots high on almost all of his shots from the circle on the PP.

      He’s just an elite athlete that subconsciously challenges himself to make the more difficult shots (i.e. high risk high reward opportunities)

  • FlareKnight

    What is wrong with these first three posters in here. They are sooooo negative. The leafs process is sooooo gooood these days. Don’t believe me ask our experts Moondawg and TGT23. They got all the answers. Heh Moondawg and T6T23 don’t forget to visit or phone your grand parents or even better visit them and watch the super bowl with them. Always remember to respect your elders kiddies.

    • CMpuck

      Longest losing streak in 30 years sooooooooooooo resign Kadri and Franson and Winnik and Santos and Panik. Uncle Leo deserves a raise.

      It’s alllllllll Bozak’s fault and sometimes Gardiner too.

    • TGT23

      Actually, grandpa was an intelligent man so I have little doubt he’d be able to comprehend Corsi and Fenwick and understand why and how it is useful.

      He was an intellectually curious man who believed one never stops learning. Corsi and Fenwick would have been something for him to learn, not belittle and ignore.

      What he might be confused by is why someone closer to his age believes respect is given and not earned. You, sir, do not deserve the respect you seem to believe is owed.

  • CMpuck

    C.M. come on get on the band wagon. My buddies T6 or is it Tg T23 or what the hell is his name and the other one Moondawg have shown me the light. Come on man its analytics, Corsi, Fenwick and all that neat stuff. We are winning man. So 8 goals in 9 games. picky, picky , picky, man. Heh the revenue has never been better for M.L.S.E. Come on C.M. get with the cheer leaders the leafs are GREAT.

    C.M. respect your elders give your elder relatives a call or visit them this weekend.

    • TGT23

      You don’t even know what you’re arguing anymore. No one in the analytics crowd has said that the team is good, or that they are a playoff team.

      All a lot of us ever said is what the facts tell us. Like Bozak-Kessel isn’t a good pairing, Kadri is a better C than Bozak, Reilly will be a top d-pair player soon and Gardiner has a lot of good in his game if he can remove the rare mind numbing bad.

      That the team couldn’t win playing Carlyle hockey and that the team is playing better hockey, at least defensively, under Horecheck. And that this system defensively is more condusive to winning but the talent isn’t there.

      That being out shot and outchanced is bad. And a team that can’t win with superhuman goaltending isn’t a contender and needs to be fixed…

      Logical things that your tired old mind can’t wrap your head around.

    • CMpuck

      Yep, Randy was so stupid, inflating players stats so they at least had trade value and like he hasn’t even won a cup in a few years, he sucks.

      Now we wear lab coats and lose the right way. Getting shut out by Philly, that’s playing the objectively right way. It’s not the players fault so let’s make all of them count against the cap for a really long time.

      I don’t agree with the amount of PP time Clarkson gets so I’m smarter than Randy Carlyle.

  • Dawgfan1980

    I do fear sometimes video games have really simplified how difficult it is to have scheme and how important not thinking and just reacting is to professional sports.

    This team looks like they think in the new processes that have been implemented. That makes some sense if we think about it with logic.

    You had a coach who for 2 and 1/2 years had a breakout featuring a weakside winger flying the zone, a collapsing strategy on defense and a passive fore check. Allow shots from outside and soak up pressure. To borrow a soccer metaphor, to counter attack. 2 1/2 years of this system to learn. The downside to the plan is that it seemed to be streaky and rely heavily on solid to spectacular goal tending.

    After Horachek was hired, I told my father (living in the Pacific NW, there aren’t many other Leaf fans to speak with in person) that it would take a minimum of 10 games before the old systems were shaken out, 20 games for the new systems to be more habitual and ingrained.

    There are a few guys who I have concerns with in our new system. I’m not sure if Kessel is carrying an injury, the weight of scoring, or going through a cold streak, however it is inexcusable in our forecheck that if you are F1 and force to a side behind the net, not to wheel with the D-man who makes the pass toward the opposite side. I don’t get on him about not scoring every game, as scoring 30 goals in a year means at minimum, 52 games you aren’t potting a goal in. However, that lack of detail for our top line on a forecheck that lead to a scoring chance? That bothers me.

    In a lower variance game, special teams come to the forefront more. The powerplay has been very poor. It does seem that we lack a true point shot that is heavy with our current roster that we ice.

    The game in many ways is as mental as it is physical. This team is fractured from inside out. Its not leadership as much as unrealistic expectations not being fulfilled. If you thought this was a playoff team (which I think the management, media, players, and some fans thought) then you are disappointed. If you thought this was a team built to finish 9/10 in the conference for perpetuity, then be happy, for the team will finish worse this year than that.

    Back to expectations. What are your expectations for the rest of the year? I’m enjoying the maturation of Morgan Reilly, Peter Holland and Jake Gardiner, who made a really good play twice over to hold the line, plays that don’t get noticed as he does them so smoothly. During the season, the biggest job is to figure out what the value of Bernier to this team is and what is a good cap number for the team that keeps the asset, if they want him. If in the next month they think he isn’t a true #1? Move him. Seriously. Letting assets walk or waste is not ideal. If you value him at $5m/yr and he won’t settle for less than $6m/yr? Move him. Goalie is a position you can’t afford to overpay for mediocrity.

    I thought Reimer had a good game tonight. I don’t think Reimer is a true #1 (as in, top 10 goalie in the league) but I think he is as good as Bernier if I’m honest. Maybe a little streakier and perhaps worse on shorhanded (How much of that is due to the year of the horrible PK, I’m not sure) but still a darn decent option.

    I enjoyed the Winnik-Holland-Panik line, I thought they did well on the forecheck, cycle and caused some light havoc. Large men, a shame two should be moved in the next month.

    I would like to see Granberg get another 5 games, I would rate him a little higher than Holzer, who I think grades out to a 6/7 D-man in the NHL. If Granberg could be a 5/6 D-man on an ELC, then great. That’s the sort of asset management you need, lower end roles filled with cheaper young players, especially with the over payment of other roles.

    In life, you should never let your level of anger or disappoint be greater than the amount of control you had over said outcome. I’m frustrated by this team, but I have no control over what happens, I’m just an observer of this sick, cruel experiment. Its what separates fanatics and bandwagon fans. If you only watch to see wins, then go be a fan of whatever team is favored to win. However, being a fanatic is to learn the sport, to watch the process, to understand why things happen from a schematic point of view. Its an investment in understanding and its a frustration in that as fanatics, we do not have control over the actions of the team.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Very good points. Helps to have constructive critiques over some who plunder this site with embarrassing rants about the virtues of not being able to count.

      The core of the problem is, as you note, having to unlearn an old system and learn a new one at the same time in the middle of a season. On the whole, the Leafs are actually showing the ability to adapt. The tragedy is that the wins aren’t there. But the team has deep sixed the “uncoachability” thesis.

      It’s true, Rielly, Holland, and Gardiner are good news. Kadri’s also been strong, but under the anxiety is hanging on to the puck too long.

      I can’t wait for the trade deadline to come and go. Partly because I don’t want to see management waste opportunities. But also so the coaches can focus on the younger guys’ development, so that even if things aren’t going well they are not getting ruined by the toxic mood.

      The second line needs attention. Kadri’s being wasted. I liked him with Santo.

      And you are right, the forecheck is lame.

      • Dawgfan1980

        I do agree that Kadri has been a good player this year. He is good on that second line as the “puck holder”. Actually, if we expand on that thought, we have really three guys who love to hold the puck in Kessel, Kadri and Clarkson (albeit with vastly different expectations), so they shouldn’t be on a line together. We seem to lack the guys who love the one-timers, to be set up off a nice pass and score.

        I agree that they’ve adapted to the new systems much more quickly than most could have hoped. The marked decrease in shots allowed in the majority of the games has been a pleasant change, along with the increase in the PK. I’m not sure if it is an anomaly with the success of the PK or if it is a correlation of the new systems and defensive responsibility in leaving the zone 5 v 5 (not as much cheating, understanding that the scheme is based on exiting the zone and puck control).

        The second line does need some help, but to be fair, how many Top 6 forwards have been available lately? I think Winnik, Panik and Santo are all third line (good systems guys, don’t have the hands to bury chances created, just missing that one thing to their game that would make them great) guys, along with Lupul (can’t stay healthy) to be honest. If you count Bozak as a second center (shudders slightly), then what? 4 guys? (JvR, Bozak, Kessel, Kadri)

        Where do you see Holland’s upside at? I think he could be a solid 2C going forward. I like his size and his IQ.

        I too am looking forward to the deadline, to see assets flipped and younger kids come up who already understand the framework of the system and can learn the minute details that we want going forward.

        Do you think Horachuk will be behind the bench next year, or someone else? Do you think the systems will remain relatively the same?

        The forecheck works when the guys on it understand their limitations and play within the framework of the plan. I like it better now than under Carlyle, where it was fairly non-existent.

        And thank you for the feedback and perspective. We all watch the games and see different things. I’m glad to have varying viewpoints and analysis.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Now I’m just beginning to think that this really is some sort of karma for all the Carlyle-wins. The bad luck is just uncanny.

    Suppose this is the best outcome though if you’re not gonna be in the playoffs, just move bodies as Dawgfan said.

    Ps. My reply to you whats48years didn’t go through on the last postgame. You have some good points (like sucking to draft well), but I also think you dismiss stats way too easily (since most of the successful franchises like LAK and Blackhawks seem to believe in them). It’s been proven Corsi and Fenwick are good at predicting winners, they’re not perfect, but what is. I’ll take better odds and a good system everyday than just relying on luck and hoping for the best. No amount of good prospects can help a team that can’t play a modern type game, that just ruins some of them.

  • CMpuck

    well we sure look stupid based on the leaf win/loss record by suggesting that carlyle needed to go. This new era leafs must make us look like claude loiselle stupor face of cluelessness on our part.

    Queue up the spin

  • TGT23

    old boy shanahan better do something before he gets shown the door. Nonis and his buddy Burke dealt the leafs this hand. If they are going to tank they have better upgrade their scouting department, past drafts and college free agents have not panned out percentage wise.IS THEIR GOALTENDING UP TO PAR? For two years now this pair has let in an awful lot of bad goals.For instance last night in Philly if Reimer is square to the puck it hits him.Alot of talk about PHANEUFS ice time who will get those minutes if they trade him, well trade him and see what happens cant be any worse.Bring up Orr or McLaren I know they didn’t play much but when they did they brought some energy and the LEAFS didn’t get pushed around. some of the 4th liners aren’t playing much now, and for the cap the salaries are decent.

  • Poluza

    The leafs should be open any trades that are reasonable for them, draft picks, prospects, young players with an upside,mature veterans that are leaders on and off the ice. The scary part is who is gonna evaluate these transactions as the past track record is not very good.Upgrades in all areas is whats needed forwards, defence, goaltending,minor league roster, scouting department, management.

  • FlareKnight

    The team can keep trying to play better hockey, but they just aren’t good enough for it. Maybe once they get some luck and they fully adapt to the system they can get right back to being a bubble team. Just a bubble team that all the advanced stats people can say “well that’s where they should be.”

    That doesn’t really solve the issue of the future or that they are capped out with a mediocre roster. They need to draft more and better than they have and move out the pieces that don’t fit.

    Lowest scoring month in franchise history. This is pretty old franchise so that’s quite the accomplishment. This year has been filled with the Leafs setting some low records.

    It’s just going to be a long, long road ahead. Key right now is figuring out everything from the top down. Who should be the GM going forward, who should be the coach, whether they should change the scouts, etc.