Toronto Maple Leafs: It Took 3 Games to Prove Critics Right About the Summer

Sep 25, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John Klingberg (3) skates against the Ottawa Senators during the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John Klingberg (3) skates against the Ottawa Senators during the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs new GM made some horrible decisions this summer.

The Toronto Maple Leafs worst move was actually to change GMs, but the moves that Brad Treliving made after being hired were based on signing name-brand players to look like he was making more changers than he was.

The fact is, other than Bertuzzi, everyone he signed was a replacement-player masquerading as a name-brand player and it was obvious at the time that these signings were problematic.

Most people didn’t want to listen because (as I’ve since learned) they just want to be excited about what their hockey team is doing and not think about it too much.   What I learned is that most Leafs fans are so resigned to things not working out that they aren’t too interested in hearing about why they won’t in advance.

After three games, however, it’s obvious I was right.

Toronto Maple Leafs: It Took 3 Games to Prove Me Right About the Summer

It’s not just that Klingberg, Kampf, Reaves and Domi are bad players, it’s that they don’t fit into the lineup the Leafs have in any natural way.

John Klingberg is horrendous.  In retrospect (three games haha!) the Leafs probably should have realized that 31 year old guys who have fallen off a cliff in terms of performance to not suddenly rebound.

It seems like they should have known that having just one physical defender on the team is not a good idea ( I realize that Jake McCabe isn’t that intimidating,  but compared to the rest of the Leafs defenseman, he is pretty much Scott Stevens).

But the worst thing about Klingberg is that he can’t prop up a 40 year old, and he isn’t physical enough for an ideal third-pairing, hand he gets destroyed in the top four. The Leafs defense isn’t good enough to carry a specialty player who only contributes on special teams.  They have nowhere to play him, and he’s blocking prospects like Kokkonen and Niemela. 

Domi is the same player, but on forward. He can’t play on the top line, his bad defense means he can’t play with Tavares and Nylander, he can’t play on a shut-down line, and he’s too expensive for the fourth line.

There is no good fit for him.

They there is David Kampf.  If Reaves (horrible stats, but you know that already) wasn’t on the fourth line, the Toronto Maple Leafs could use  Kampf as a shut-down centre, but you can’t give him hard minutes with Reaves around, and you can’t make an 3rd line shut-down line with Domi around.  Both signings ruin what little effectiveness he has.

The problem is that for whatever they do bring to the table, Reaves, Klingberg and Domi are so bad defensively they prevent Sheldon Keefe from having any options.  Kampf is the opposite in that his offense is so bad he can’t work on most lines.  

The Toronto Maple Leafs main problem here is that all these guys are extremely flawed and they don’t fit the mold the Leafs have been using over the years which is to find solid two-way players that can plug anywhere into the lineup.

Guys like Jarnkrok, Kerfoot, O’Rielly, Bunting, Acciari and even Lafferty and Aston-Resse were all really smart players who were flexible and versatile, and their replacements just aren’t any of those things.

This team will go as far as it’s start take it. That hasn’t changed.  But every problem that critics raised in the summer about Treliving’s signings has been apparent from day one of training camp.

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Let’s hope that when it comes to realizing and fixing his mistakes, that Brad Treliving can take a page out of Kyle Dubas book. Because all general managers screw up, it’s how they respond that matters.