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The Toronto Maple Leafs are their own worst enemy. It is a great story that they have finallymade the playoffs again. The fans in Toronto have deserved far better for some time. However, their stay in the playoffs is going to be short lived unless changes are made to the lineup.
Head Coach Randy Carlyle needs to shed his archaic roster preferences in order to ice the best possible lineup that can actually play hockey. He consistently wastes 2-3 roster spots per game on the misperception that if he ices a “tough” lineup, that it will actually intimidate the competition. This is a belief of yesteryear and does not apply in the current NHL landscape. I’ll be the first one to say that you need toughness to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, however it has to be playable toughness, not some 8 minutes a night scrub who can’t catch a stride or make a hockey play.
Two specific examples of this are Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren. Every game that they are both dressed is a win for the other team. It’s one less functional line that the other team’s coach has to worry about. If you don’t believe me, here is the Maple Leafs usage chart for forwards this season:
Both players lead the Leafs in offensive zone starts which should be reserved for, you know, offensively gifted players. Both have miserable Corsi ratings (bigger the orange bubble, the worse the Corsi rating is) even with their generous zone start times, and last but not least they play against the easiest competition out of any Maple Leafs forwards. Given all of those factors how in the world is it a good idea to play either of them, ever?
Matt Frattin should never be a healthy scratch for either of those two players. In 25 games this season Frattin (13 points) is already more than halfway to Orr's career point total (24) that has taken him 422 games to "achieve". I would go as far to say that Joe Colborne should never be a healthy scratch for those two players. Fighting in the playoffs has always dissipated when compared to the regular season and that was even before the instigator rule was put in. There just is no reason for Orr or McLaren to dress. With an instigator rule in place nobody on the opposition has to waste their time with them. "Hey you want to go? No? OK I guess I'll just have to skate around then."
The Leafs were the worst puck possession team in the NHL this year. The gap between the Leafs and the next worst puck possession team currently in the playoffs is 10 spots. The Leafs are obviously 30th and the Anaheim Ducks (a former Carlyle coached team) are 20th overall.
If you can’t manage the puck in the playoffs you can start writing your obituary. Too many crazy bounces occur during the postseason that lead to goals. If you consistently play without the puck the chances of being on the wrong side of those bounces increases.
The Maple Leafs also led the NHL in team shooting percentage. This is the main reason why they were able to survive with such awful puck possession numbers. If their shooting percentage comes back down to earth, the Leafs don’t stand a chance.
Playing a really well built Boston Bruins team was going to be a tough task for Toronto in the first place, but roster decisions that defy logic and reason further make that task unachievable.
Thanks for reading!