The Toronto Maple Leafs Should Be Beyond Their Lack of Preparedness

Dec 21, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (53) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Dec 21, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (53) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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Heading towards the NHL's holiday break the Toronto Maple Leafs had set themselves up in an advantageous position.

Before a recent home-ice loss to the New York Rangers, the Toronto Maple Leafs had climbed into second place in the Atlantic Division and within shouting distance of the division-leading Boston Bruins.

Despite the loss to the Cup-contending Rangers, the schedule offered an opportunity for the Leafs to get back on track with a string of games against lesser opponents.

Facing the downtrodden Buffalo Sabres, followed by a trio of games against the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators should have been an elixir. Unfortunately, based on the Buffalo game, it might now be.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Should Be Beyond Their Lack of Preparedness

The Toronto Maple Leafs stubbed their toe with their worst effort of the season losing 9-3. Even with their dreadful history when visiting Buffalo, the calamity was an all-time low. By now, however, the result should not be shocking.

For years, especially during the Sheldon Keefe era, the Leafs have inexplicably not taken advantage of playing weaker opponents.

Everyone is responsible for being prepared for these games and approaching them with the right mindset, from the head coach to the players themselves.

It was an ominous sign for the Leafs when Keefe opted to start the struggling Ilya Samsonov in goal. The soft opening goal he allowed was a dubious sign of what was to come.

The Leafs rebounded to take a 2-1 lead later in the first period before their sloppiness returned. Frantic defensive coverage allowed the Sabres to tie it before Mitch Marner opted for cute instead of careful in his end, allowing Buffalo to grab a 3-2 heading to the first intermission.

The rest of the night saw a succession of turnovers, lax defensive play, and ultimately a humiliating loss. This after the Sabres had lost their previous game 9-4 to the Blue Jackets.

Keefe did the Leafs no favor by starting Samsonov and his team was not ready to play. If it were a one-off it could be excused, yet the Leafs had to miraculously recover from a 5-0 home-ice deficit just a week earlier against the lowly Blue Jackets just to earn a single point in an OT loss.

The players are also to blame for this fiasco. Being careless with the puck with a tentative, insecure goaltender is not a recipe for success. Plus, they had to know the Sabres would want to respond after their embarrassing defeat.

The problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs is that their underperformance against weaker competition has been going on for years. It is a big reason why they have yet to win a division title, excluding the all-Canadian division during the pandemic.

It demonstrates a lack of professionalism and maturity. The Leafs core and coach should long ago have cleared this hurdle.

Over the next few games, the Leafs will get the chance to redeem themselves and regain some pride. It is a mental component that they must overcome.

Next. The Leafs Need One of These Ten Defensemen. The Leafs Need One of These Ten Defensemen. dark

Without it, success won't come their way.