Since taking over the helm in Toronto, Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke spent a whole lot of cash building the defensive crop.
The group on paper looks like a very fierce and truculent group but the play on the ice appears to be contradictory to this. Too many times the defenseman look to be out of position and turning the puck over. For a defense that consists mainly of “stay at home defensemen,” these mistakes are unacceptable.
Fortunately, the stats show an improvement from last year: 36 games in last year, the Leafs gave up 87 goals, this year they have given up 70 goals. With that, here is part two of the Maple Leafs analysis.
Each player is rated from 1-10, 1 represents a player who has played absolutely horrible while 10 represents a player who has played excellent or up to his standards. Keep in mind the ratings are in accordance to what the management and coaching expect from the player, not necessarily his stats. The players cap hits are shown in brackets after their name.
Keith Aulie (AHL):
Sound defense and physicality are the two strong traits that describe Aulie and “not so great skating” is another one. If Aulie intends to crack the Leafs top four in the future, he will have to work hard to improve his first few strides of his skating along with agility.
Francois Beauchemin (3.8):
Beauchemin has not lived up to expectations ever since he arrived in Toronto. He is a great player without the puck but is horrible with the puck. Too many turnovers, especially in the neutral zone drive coaches crazy.
Carl Gunnarsson (800K):
Gunnarsson is definitely going through a sophomore slump right now. The only question is, will he snap out of the funk? Right now he is fighting for ice time with Brett Lebda. There is absolutely no doubt in the world Gunnarsson looks like a uninspired player this year.
Korbinian Holzer (AHL):
In his two games with the Maple Leafs, Holzer played a fine defensive game rarely getting out of position and completing first passes out of the zone. Though he turned over the puck a few times. The Leafs have high hopes for Holzer in the future, but rating him right now would be inaccurate.
Rating: - Incomplete
Tomas Kaberle (4.25):
Kaberle has been steady during the 2010-11 season. Some nights he looks amazing but other nights he looks lost. Kaberle is arguably the best puck moving defenseman in the league but this year he has started to shoot more and it looks like its backfiring. This may be the final year that Kaberle dons the Maple Leaf uniform as his contract is up at the end of the season
Mike Komisarek (4.5):
Komisarek struggled early on when he was averaging just under 15 minutes of ice time per game. A player like Komisarek needs big time minutes if he is going to play well. During the time Dion Phaneuf spent on the mend, Komisarek’s minutes have gone up but he was still having trouble finding his game. He needs to start targeting the body when the opposition forwards enter the zone instead of trying to strip them of the puck.
Brett Lebda (1.45):
Lebda found himself under the gun from Leafs fans right from the get go. Especially because his penalty in overtime during Lebda’s first game as Leaf lead to the first loss of the season for the Leafs. Ever since, the bombardment continues from Leafs fans because Lebda continues his over aggressive play on defense, takes too many untimely penalties, and pinches too many times in the offensive zone which then lead to goals for the opposition.
Dion Phaneuf (6.5):
Phaneuf’s play has been unacceptable. His poor positional play has taken its tole in the past and is really angering Leafs fans right now. It also looks like he has lost his accuracy with his slap shots and won’t find it in him to take wrist shots. Unless he converts his gameplay and plays a much safer game, his struggles will continue while carrying the load of being captain of the Leafs. With a cap hit of $6.5 million, sooner or later he will be booed out of town just like Bryan McCabe if he continues to play like this and not produce.
Luke Schenn (2.97):
Schenn has done a great job completing first passes out of the zone and has played extremely solid defense and has by far been the Leafs’ best defenseman. If Schenn continues to play with confidence and improves his game gradually, he may become the Adam Foote that Leafs fans were hoping for.
Goaltending has been a weakness for the Leafs in recent years with the weak play of the likes of Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft. But now it looks like there may be some stability long term ever since the Curtis Joseph days. J.S. Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson have done more than enough to win games this year and James Riemer and Jussi Rynnas are dominating in the minors. Management will not have to worry about goaltending for quite a while.
Here is my analysis of the Leafs goaltending tandem:
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (6.0):
Day in and day out Giguere has given the Leafs a chance to win every night. His veteran presence seems to spark the Leafs offense. He is the type of goalie that calms the team down with his style of play, the exact opposite to what Toskala provided. Giguere has been plagued with a groin injury all year long and looks like his career may come to a halt in a year or two if the injuries continue.
Jonas Gustavsson (1.35):
With heart procedures put aside, Gustavsson is playing extremely well. Gustavsson’s stats are deceiving due to the fact he has received very little goal support especially when it comes to his 3.04 goals against average. He is finally looking like the Monster that Leafs fans expect him to be despite his recent struggles.
Follow Raihan on Twitter @SH_Leafs