Leafs November Reign: Leaflets

Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
A 10-1-3 month is pretty darn good. There are still a couple of games left to get sorted out, but that’s the way to make up for a crummy October. The feeling of deja vu is pretty strong here though, as this is identical to how things played out for the Leafs last season, right down to getting lights-out goaltending. If the Leafs insist on doing a rerun of the 2021-22 season, I guess they will continue to win through December, but we’ll start forming some concerns about goaltending before truly hating the situation in January.
One of the interesting stats that I came across today is that the Leafs are 9-0-2 this season when leading after 2, and they are 0-2-2 when they are trailing after 2. The fact that the Leafs are catastrophically blowing leads is encouraging, but it’s a bit of a bummer that they aren’t pulling off any comebacks either. We’ll probably see these numbers normalize as we get more of the season completed, but I guess we can make our peace with the outcome of games after the second period for the time being.
Here are a few other stray thoughts.

Leafs don’t need no stinkin’ D

As Leafs defenseman after Leafs defenseman joins the injured list (either regular or LTIR) the Leafs have managed to continue to get the work done. Some of that comes to the credit of the Leafs goaltenders, but credit also needs to be given to the increased defensively responsible play of the Leafs forwards as well.
It’s nice for the Leafs to not have to seek out desperate opportunities to pay a premium for the likes of Tyler Myers, and if anything it should also have people rethinking the approach to how a blueline is built.
The Leafs are definitely making a case for the system being the priority over the personnel. Having the right players to execute the system is certainly important too, but what we’ve seen is that Liljegren and Sandin have fit in with what is needed. We’ve seen Holl raise the level of his game of late, and it goes without saying that Giordano has done everything that can be reasonably asked of him and more. It may not be sustainable to continue to get by without Brodie and Rielly, but in the short term they are doing it, and certainly points to the Leafs being able to put themselves in the position to invest in another forward rather than a defenseman when the time comes to make a trade.

No one has been bad lately

It’s not easy when you can’t throw a player like Justin Holl, Pierre Engvall, or Alex Kerfoot under the bus after every game, but arguably they’ve all been performing well. You can even say that other than Kerfoot’s steep decline in offense this season, all three have been perfectly adequate throughout the year. Holl was maybe with the wrong partner for a while, Kerfoot was on the wrong line, but they have been able to figure themselves out.
That being said, the price tag associated with them is the issue. Engvall and Kerfoot are pricey for bottom six forwards, and Holl, while not expensive, isn’t outplaying what the Leafs can get from Conor Timmins or Jordie Benn. Moving on from these players to reinvest the salary into one worthwhile addition is the real reason to call for the Leafs to move on from them.
Pontus Holmberg, and Jordie Benn have been the case and point on that. Holmberg has taken away the need for Engvall, Robertson being in the lineup should be the priority over Kerfoot, and like I said, Benn does everything that is needed from Holl at a fraction of the price. There also isn’t any shortage of usable depth on the Marlies at the present, and between these salaries and Jake Muzzin’s LTIR relief, the Leafs have the potential to do some very interesting things that can upgrade the roster beyond what strong bottom of the roster players are bringing.

Murray vs. net moorings

Finally, I just want to close on this one last thing. Let’s say that Matt Murray is doing this on purpose. Does that bother you as a Leafs fan? It certainly doesn’t bother me. If Matt Murray is either having a hard time tracking the puck on a play, or doesn’t like the way the Leafs are positioned around him and he finds a way to get a whistle before things go bad, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Of course it will become a bad thing if other goaltenders start doing it and shutting down the Leafs effective cycle game in the process, but then again, we’ve also recently learned the Leafs don’t need a net on its moorings to score, so why worry? Until Murray finds himself being penalized for these actions, I say embrace it and enjoy what it does to the fans and beat writers of the opposition.
I take back anything negative I said about the Matt Murray acquisition. It’s all worth it for this.

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