An enigma is a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand. A perfect description of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It has been that way for years, although this season the Toronto Maple Leafs are taking their enigmatic persona to a different level. They can’t decide what kind of team they want to be.
One doesn’t have to look far for examples of their mystifying play. The Leafs are capable of an offensive explosion to steal a victory or a head-scratching mistake that leads to a defeat.
The individual performance of many players has followed the same script as the season hits the quarter-pole. The most troubling aspect is that the head coach and core of their roster have been together a long time, yet the same type of mistakes continue to be made.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Remain An Enigma
A look at the Leafs losses shows they have lost several games to lesser opponents. They include two losses to last year’s lottery-winning Chicago Blackhawks and one to each of the Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres.
Any Leafs fan who has had a ticket to a mid-week game in recent years has seen this movie before. It’s been habitual for this team. A clunker against a middling opponent that results in missed points in the standings.
For much of the Sheldon Keefe/Core 4 era, critical in-game mistakes or game management has been spotty.
It reared its ugly head once again after the most recent loss to the Blackhawks. Keefe, rightfully so, was exasperated.
A dominant first-period that ended with a two-goal lead, turned into an overtime loss. Multiple terrible decisions with the puck and shaky goaltending led to a missed point in the standings instead of a cruise-control win.
Also noteworthy in this game was the Toronto Maple Leafs league-leading seventh bench minor of the season. They are comfortably ahead of the second-place Edmonton Oilers in this dubious category.
Again, it’s an ongoing issue for the Leafs. They have led the league in bench minors since the start of the 2021-2022 season.
It begs the question, how does a professional organization continue to botch a simple procedure? Someone needs to be held accountable. It’s inexcusable.
The Leafs recent loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins provided another example of poor game management.
A cleanly lost faceoff and a quick pass with less than a minute remaining in the second period resulted in the Penguins’ go-ahead goal. The Leafs chased from behind the rest of the night and were never able to recover, partially thanks to the play of goaltender Tristan Jarry.
This type of recurring play has been an unfortunate staple of the last half-decade. For much of the Keefe era, the Leafs have been a strong analytical team, but make a mental error or have a breakdown in structure that results in defeat.
This season, the Leafs advanced stats are not as strong, but their lack of structure or key mistakes remain.
Yes, new players are getting acclimated to the lineup, but roughly a quarter of the way through the year improvement should be happening.
The Boston Bruins, Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Colorado Avalanche know how to close and control a game.
The most disturbing part of all this? The Toronto Maple Leafs head coach and core players have been together a long time, but the fixable problems remain.
The Leafs and their coach continue to make infuriating mistakes that show a lack of maturity. By now, that’s a problem they should be beyond.