It’s Dan Mount again, and we’ve got another installment of my Summer Spotlight series. This time I’ll take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Anyone that suits up for the Toronto Maple Leafs know there is intense pressure on them once they don the blue and white. However that pressure has been getting bumped up more and more by the season.
To say the natives are restless would be a bit of an understatement.
After getting their hearts broken in the 2013 playoffs by choking away a big lead in game seen of their first round series against Boston, Toronto was looking to improve and make a deeper run. It looked the Leafs were well on their way after a hot start. (They were downright unstoppable in October and November.)
Toronto was defying all the odds despite injuries and being outshot because they kept winning game after game. Phil Kessel was proving to be worth that big trade with Boston that involved Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.
Life was great for Toronto, but some were saying that the fun wasn’t going to last. The Leafs were winning games, but they seemed to be living dangerously. They were getting outshot night-after-night, they were getting dominated in possession numbers and were really suffering in advanced stats like Corsi, Fenwick and the other “fancy stats.”
Advanced stats people warned everyone that the fun wouldn’t last. Some advanced statisticians thought the Buds were in trouble as early as the second week of the season. More would get on the bandwagon at the start of 2014. (I also touched on this briefly in my Advanced Stats 101 primer that I released I did a couple of weeks ago.)
The freefall did happen and the Leafs finished out of the wild card positions. There was plenty of blame to go around as people were all over defenseman Dion Phaneuf, coach Randy Carlyle and especially goalie James Reimer. (Ask his wife about that one.)
One of the main problems was the leaky defense that didn’t do Reimer or Jonathan Bernier any favors. Both netminders faced a lot of vulcanized rubber as opposing offenses camped out in the Toronto zone. While other teams spent plenty of time in the Toronto end, the Leafs couldn't cash in on the power play. A team that gives up a lot of shot has to punch in opportunities when they are presented.
Toronto also ran itself ragged by seemingly only putting out three lines. Phil Kessel is good and all, but he shouldn’t have been double-shifted so many times. Carlyle barely used his fourth line when the games piled up on the schedule.
Not making in a market like Toronto is almost a no-no. There were immediately many changes and started by introducing former lord of discipline Brendan Shanahan as the new president of the team. The Leafs also hired advanced stats wunderkind Kyle Dubas as assistant general manager. (Dubas seemed to have his hands in the signing of Jake Gardiner.) The Buds also further embraced the analytics game by hiring Extraskater.com founder Darryl Metcalf along with Cam Charron and Rob Pettapiece to form an analytics department.
Toronto also made other signings like getting Leo Komorov from the KHL and David Booth from Vancouver, and dumped a few assistant coaches Scott Gordon, Greg Cronin and Dave Farrish (the latter being a longtime friend of Carlyle.)
But the biggest challenge could be from within the organization. Yahoo Sports Ryan Lambert reported there could be a power struggle between the old guard of General Manager Dave Nonis and Coach Carlyle and the new guard of Shanahan and the analytics department. It will interesting to see if the new approach works and if Nonis and Carlyle get fired at the first hint of trouble.
Whatever the case, it will be another interesting season at the Air Canada Centre where the most drama could come off the ice.
That’s it for today. Do you have comments or questions on this or any other piece I’ve done? Who would you like to see in the Summer Spotlight next? You can comment below or tweet me @DanMountSports or @Hockey_Sentinel.
Dan Mount is the editor for Hockey Sentinel. He also covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for NYSportScene.com.