Assistant Coach Mike Van Ryn (Main Responsibility: Defense)
This past offseason, Mike Van Ryn was one of the new assistant coaches added to the team’s coaching staff to help out with the team’s defensive structure and game plan.
In retrospect, the Leafs defense hasn’t been all that bad the past few years, but to get to the next level, something needed to be done to take that giant leap forward.
As a former first-round draft pick and solid defender, the Leafs were looking forward to Van Ryn bringing in his expertise in the area to help augment their defensive zone play for the current season and beyond.
However, it appears as though the Leafs have actually taken a step back compared to last season with respect to their defensive game. Last year, the Leafs gave up an average of 2.68 goals per game and 29.51 shots per game, whereas this season, those marks have risen to 3.27 and 30.56 respectively.
More worrisome has been the team’s overall 5-on-5 defensive zone play this season, as they currently rank seventh-last in the league in high danger shots against with 105, fifth-last in the league in giveaways with 339, and fourth-last in defensive zone giveaways with 208 prior to Wednesday’s game.
If this trend is prolonged for the rest of the season, it will certainly turn out to be a recipe for disaster when they face higher-tiered teams.
The Leafs no longer have a Jake Muzzin or a Luke Schenn that they can lean towards for heavy defensive minutes, so it will be up to Van Ryn to get the most out of his current players to work cohesively as a team to defend properly and effectively. Otherwise, not only will the Leafs’ chances of making the playoffs be gone this year, Van Ryn’s coaching job could be on thin ice as well.