Although in some ways this issue is likely exacerbated by the pileup of injuries on the backend, it is still a legitimate issue.
They currently rank 27th in the entire league in expected goals against per 60 minutes (xGA/60). They are also 23rd in actual goals against.
The issues on the backend have been exposed with the struggles of T.J. Brodie this season. Since signing with the Maple Leafs in 2020, he has been the team’s most consistent blueliner, especially with Muzzin’s decline due to injuries.
Unfortunately down the stretch last season he showed signs of slowing down but this year has proven people’s worries correct.
The problem has also been compounded by the loss of defensive forwards over the past year. The acquisitions of Sam Lafferty, Noel Acciari, and Ryan O’Reilly last season improved the team’s defensive presence.
Losing such players via free agency and trade has not helped the team from a defensive standpoint. As well, the losses of Zach Aston-Reese and Alex Kerfoot didn’t help in this department.
Likely this means that the team will have to make trades leading up to the deadline to bolster depth up front. A trade for an impact defenceman also wouldn’t hurt.
Currently, the Leafs are rotating deployment of Simon Benoit, William Lagesson, and Connor Timmins and could definitely upgrade this position.