Toronto Maple Leafs: What Happened In October?

TORONTO, ON-Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews talk before a face off in the Nashville Predators zone in Toronto on Monday (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star) (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON-Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews talk before a face off in the Nashville Predators zone in Toronto on Monday (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star) (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

Looking at the Toronto Maple Leafs season so far, more questions than answers have been raised. 

Kyle Dubas and management worked tirelessly this off-season, fitting in notable players into the cap structure. Somehow the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves with a record of 6-5-3 and out of a wild card spot, something needs to change and it needs to be now.

Toronto is simply too good of a team to have a record barely above .500, but let’s take a deeper look as to why Toronto has struggled thus far.

What has happened to Toronto this October? Well, for instance, Toronto has 7 new regulars on its team. When developing a perennial cup contender, any team needs chemistry and the right blend of skill and grit. Toronto has the skill in spades, but is still trying to develop that chemistry and round out the roster with grit.

Toronto Maple Leafs in October

Over this past October, we have seen a very inconsistent Leafs team, which at times has looked brilliant and other times looked lazy and disinterested in the game at hand.

Toronto has shown that they are capable of handling the weaker teams, yet struggle against the stronger teams. On paper, Toronto should be a top 3 team in the NHL, there is absolutely no way around it. Toronto has under-performed to date, but it can change, based on the amount of sheer talent on this roster.

5 seasons in, it appears as if Mike Babcock has hit a ceiling with the Leafs. He continues to over use and under use specific players at exactly the wrong moments of each game. He has a fascinating strategy in regards to the back to back situation, throwing Hutchinson to the wolves on the second night.

Missed assignments and blown coverage is a common issue among  the team, if these issues keep happening, change is inevitable.  It certainly does not help Babcock’s case that Toronto has been eliminated 3 straight years in the first round.

Now we know Toronto’s external view from the outside, but let’s take another look at the numbers too. The eye test shows that Toronto has had some real shaky moment in its own end. Toronto is currently 3rd last in goals allowed, while being 4th in goals for.

This high octane offense is certainly great to have, but if you can’t defend, what’s the use of scoring all these goals? Had Toronto been able to be more airtight in its own zone, their 6-5-3 record would be a lot better.

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Why are the Leafs giving up so many goals to begin with? Frederik Andersen has been good at times, but has let in some real stinkers. The defense have struggled with coverage and the forwards backchecking has not been nearly strong enough.

Luckily Hyman and Tavares are coming back soon, making the Leafs more complete and balanced. These additions mean that Toronto’s capologists have to do a major balancing act with fitting everyone under the cap.

Having Dermott coming back already, is a huge add for Toronto, as it helps with reliving minutes from Rielly, Barrie, Muzzin and Ceci. Dermott and Hyman have a combined hit of 3,113,333 million. Toronto’s current cap space is at $217,017- This means there will be change and this could be used as a good shakeup for Toronto.

Will Cody Ceci be moved? He and his 4.5 cap hit is certainly what points to [yes] Trying to find a suitor that will take on that salary and his style of play, will be a challenge. Some more options to be moved are; Nick Shore and Martin Marincin.

The reasons behind these choices, are that they are the clear outsiders on the roster. Toronto currently has 14 forwards and 7 defensemen, excluding Hyman and Dermott. I didn’t choose Gravel, due to Toronto’s tendencies of carrying at least one extra player for a road trip.

Nic Petan; Having been recently loaned to the Marlies, it cannot be seen as a surprise. Petan struggled to gain any ground with Babcock. This also means that Tavares and Hyman are close to coming back. Management has been trying to move Petan, it’s going to be interesting as to what price they can move Petan for.

Nick Shore; Shore has only managed to pick up 1 point in his 11 games so far with the Leafs. In the words of Randy Carlyle, Shore has been just ok, but with the Leafs, that’s simply not good enough.

Martin Marincin; I don’t think I have to explain myself here, but I will- the Marincin experiment should have ended 4 years ago. For a team that is gearing towards Stanley Cup contention, Marincin should have absolutely no business being on or around the Leafs roster. It has been recently reported that management has been trying to move Marincin, so we are at a “wait and see” in regards to Marincin.

One more tidbit to point out, Toronto’s power play has struggled significantly this year, which is shocking, considering the amount of talent on each unit. On the power play, Toronto currently has a 19.57% with a 77% on the penalty kill. The defense for it, is that the boys are working with new PP and PK coaches, so the systems have been adjusted.

At the end of the day- talent is talent, Toronto has loads of it, but aren’t capitalizing. One player shouldn’t make or break Toronto on the power play. Toronto’s special teams NEED to improve sooner, rather than later.

Do the Toronto Maple Leafs need to make a change for the sake of change? No. They need to make sure whatever decisions they make this early in the season, are the right ones.

Next. Leafs Top Ten Prospects. dark

Is it time to panic? Absolutely not. We all know the track record Toronto has, it’s simply just a matter of time before they get going.