Toronto Maple Leafs Week in Review: January 4-10

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

-Vince Lombardi

In what may be looked back on as the worst week of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs managed to lose four games in seven nights.

On Saturday the Leafs took on the Rangers, losing 7-1. Three nights later, John Tavares and the Islanders scoring five on an obviously rattled Jonathan Bernier for a 5-3 win. 24 hours after that, away from home and looking to rebound in the pressure free environment that is Raleigh, North Carolina, the Leafs (now with James Reimer manning the crease) would surrender six for their third blowout loss in a row. After their loss to the Canes, the Leafs fell out of a playoff spot for the first time in nearly a calendar year. After essentially rolling over to their previous opponents, the Leafs would show some grit against the Washington Capitals. but it was all for naught, as the Leafs fell 3-2 in the tightly contested match.

It appears the Leafs are in the midst, or perhaps at the lowest point, of another mid-season collapse that could dash all playoff hopes for the Toronto faithful.

Here are some interesting statistics to encapsulate how badly the Leafs have been as of late:

Across social media, one message seemed to be constant: Fire Randy Carlyle. The common complaints have to do with Carlyle’s roster decisions: Scratching Jake Gardiner in exchange for Mark Fraser, playing Peter Holland on the fourth line with two fighters who rarely fight, and putting Tim Gleason in a top pairing role where the veteran d-man will likely not be able to keep up with the high quality of competition.

The Leafs are back in action tomorrow night against the New Jersey Devils.

Topics: Jake Gardiner, James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, Randy Carlyle, Toronto Maple Leafs

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  • Stan Smith

    I am not surprised Gardiner got benched for a game. He is supposed to be an offensive defenceman but he only has 13 points in 44 games. Defensively he has been a nightmare, soft without the puck and continually turning it over in his own zone. He does have flashes where you see the same grit and determination he displayed in last years playoffs but these flashes are few and far between. Mind you he is not alone in that aspect but you can’t bench everyone.

    • Tim Bayer

      Replacing him with Fraser is inexcusable. Fraser is terrible.

      • Stan Smith

        I agree that Fraser has struggled this season. I’m guessing a part of that is due to his injury. I can understand with the leafs struggling defensively, Carlyle would want a more responsible defensive player to step in. Given the choice between Ranger and Fraser I can see where he would decide to go with Fraser..

        • Tim Bayer

          It makes sense in theory, but really I think both of them are simply too slow to keep up. When you add Franson and Gunnarsson and even Phaneuf, the Leafs have a lot of guys who have struggled to keep up this year. I’ve been mildly impressed with Gleason but he’s not very mobile either. That’s when Gardiner and Rielly are badly needed to bring some mobility to the fold.

          • Stan Smith

            I wouldn’t say either one of the three guys you mentioned were slow. They might not be speedsters but not exactly slow either. To me the main job of a defenceman is to play defence, to stop the other team from scoring. One of the reasons I think Carlyle seems so hard on Gardiner is because of his defensive issues. If he would play more like he did in the playoffs last season he could easily become their #1 guy but he can’t seem to sustain that.

            To me a team needs a blend of solid stay at home types and offensive players. I think the Liles for Gleason deal was great for both teams. Carolina was in need of a little more mobility in the backend and the Leafs were in need of a more dependable defensive player. The last minute of the Boston game last night proved to me Gleason’s worth. His play at the end of the game has to inspire the team. I’m sure Carlyle must have loved it.

          • Tim Bayer

            Gleason has been fine, but Phaneuf, Gunnarsson and Franson have all had defensive issues. I wouldn’t call them “slow”, but they’re not adept at skating back into the play or skating the puck out of trouble. Gardiner is very good at both those things. Yes, he makes some errors sometimes, but so do all players, especially youngsters.

          • Stan Smith

            I think of Gunnarson in the same light as I think of Bozak. He doesn’t get much positive press but from what I see he is the best dman they have in their own end. One on one he is the best player for separating the opposing player and the puck along the boards. The only time I see him have problems in that area is if he is double teamed or has no where to go with the puck once he has it. He is also by far their best dman as the lone man back on a two on one. The only issue I have with Phaneuf or Franson is their decision making at times.