Though the Toronto Maple Leafs have picked up some decent results lately, they can’t be happy their recent overall play. After a disastrous week where they lost to Boston and LA, the Leafs had better results, but a three goal comeback against Tampa, an embarrassing loss to Ottawa, a blown three-goal lead to Calgary and two decent periods against Vancouver do not inspire confidence, even if the results are good.
One of the reasons for the poor play isn’t being addressed by the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.
The Leafs are stuck in a difficult position because team president, Brendan Shanahan, made the decision to fire General Manager Kyle Dubas and replace him with Brad Treliving. The struggles that the Leafs are currently facing are somewhat imposed by the decisions Treliving has made.
Treliving’s very first signing in Toronto was meant to upgrade team toughness. He signed Ryan Reaves to a three year deal, which gave them a player who isn’t afraid to punch opponents in the nose, unfortunately, he can no longer play in the NHL and is hurting the team whenever he plays.
Toronto Maple Leafs Won’t Address the Real Problem
According to Hockey Reference, playing at even strength, Reaves’ Corsi rating is 42.2. To understand just how poor that is, it’s important to note that his possession metric relative to his team is -9.8%.
The most expensive signing Treliving made was bringing in the offensive defenseman, John Klingberg. He’s being paid $4.150M with the hope that he’s going to add to team offense. In the first 13 games, he has given his squad five assists. Unfortunately, Klingberg, like Reaves, hurts the team on defense instead of improves it.
The biggest issue with having Klingberg on the team is his large cap hit, which prevents the franchise from bringing in other talent to help. Without Klingberg’s salary, a trade is more likely and there is greater opportunity to acquire a player of note from another organization.
What fans won’t hear is the true issue the organization faces. In order for the Toronto Maple Leafs to fix their squad, they need to move pieces out. The best options to send elsewhere are Reaves and Klingberg. However, for Treliving to deal them, he would need to package assets such as draft picks along with the athletes in order for other teams to have any interest in a trade. This is where it gets sticky.
Treliving may feel that he can’t admit to a massive error like poor signings in his first year in a hockey crazed market, but doing so would actually buy him leeway and earn him respect.
Most of Reaves’ contract can be burried in the AHL, while Klingberg can hopefully be included in a trade to balance salaries, without having to pay someone to take him.
The only question is whether the Leafs new GM will take the loss and move on, or if he’ll continue to hope these players will improve. Treliving has backed himself into a position where he is doomed to either hold onto players he knows shouldn’t stick around or move them and face the embarrassing consequences. It’s a no-win situation for the Leafs.
The season is still young and both Reaves and Klingberg have the opportunity to turn things around, but they likely won’t because their ages make improvement an extreme long-shot. The only way out of this mess for Treliving and Shanahan is the Toronto Maple Leafs as a whole seeing an improvement in their performance and winning more games.