At the beginning of the season, the Leafs had high hopes for a finish in the top eight of the eastern conference. The sense of optimism in Leafs nation was bright as Leafs fans saw success in the roster with new comers like Colby Armstrong, Kris Versteeg, and Mike Brown.
The Leafs got off to a 4-0 start routing the Senators and Canadiens at home and fending off the Pens and Rangers on the road. But everything went downhill from there losing 11 of their next 12 games.
Currently the Leafs are 13th in their conference with 30 points and are on pace to finish the season with approximately 70 points. They are currently on pace to have four fewer points than last season’s total of 74.
Clearly the optimism in Leafs nation has taken a hit, it looks like the Leafs will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight year and land the Boston Bruins another lottery pick. This failure too attain the necessary points to clinch a playoff birth is due to the lack of production from certain players.
Let us take an in-depth look at each individual to determine who has met the expectations and those who have not. Today we will be analyzing the forwards who have scored a combined 75 goals this year:
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 staff expect from the player, not necessarily his stats. Don’t be surprised if Mike Brown gets a higher rating than Phil Kessel. The players cap hits are shown in brackets after his name.
Colby Armstrong (3.0):
Armstrong’s consistency has been a vital factor to the success of the Leafs. Although his offensive production was poor (as expected), he has played very well along the boards and brought a big, hard to play against body to the Leafs. He is a physical force to be reckoned with and is always causing trouble when on the ice.
Tyler Bozak (3.72 EL):
The struggling centre has under achieved expectations so far this season as he only has 11 points in 35 games. Bozak came in to the season clamping down the first line centre role and now looks like he should be in the AHL. With Bozak struggling, his line mate Phil Kessel is also struggling to put up goals.
Timothy Brent (5.75 EL):
With the passion to stay in the NHL, Tim Brent has sacrificed his body on many occasions absorbing shots for the good of the team. He has played a very sound defensive game for a third or fourth line centre and tallied three goals.
Mike Brown (537K):
Brown has become a fan favorite in Toronto. He’s doing all the little things; blocking shots, winning board battles, killing penalties, and punishing defenseman. Brown has done it all this season and has gained the love of Maple Leafs fans. His determination along with his speed is the ultimate recipe to a great fourth liner. His passion for the game makes you realize why hockey is so great.
Luca Caputi (833K EL):
Caputi hasn’t been all that good this season as he has struggled to find his game when with the big club. Most of Caputi’s time with the Leafs has consisted of the third or fourth line. Caputi is a player in his developing stages of his career as a prospect. The Leafs will give him time to develop.
Mikhail Grabovski (2.9):
Grabovski is all over the place on the ice and off the ice. He has gone through the pains of being hated by Leafs fans and the greats of being loved. Give him credit though, he has bounced back in a big way after a horrible start to the season where he was held goalless in the first 11 games. Grabovski is definitely playing the best hockey of his professional career.
Christian Hanson (AHL):
In his very short time with the Leafs, Hanson played on the fourth line and killed penalties. He showed speed and a little more physicality than last year. The Leafs hope to develop him into a future third line centre in the future. Rating him right now would be inaccurate.
Rating: - Incomplete
Nazem Kadri (AHL):
Kadri has shown flashes of his great playmaking skills along with great puck handling. Yet to record his first NHL goal, Kadri was recently farmed to the Toronto Marlies where the management expects him to develop size and strength after playing 17 games in the NHL this season.
Phil Kessel (5.4):
Kessel has been very “Kessel” like this season. He started off great, racking up seven goals in eight games but then went on a scoring slump. Kessel needs to be less predictable and start using his speed to his advantage instead of resorting to the toe drag when in the offensive zone. Kessel is a team worst -16.
Nikolai Kulemin (2.35):
Kulemin continues to show signs of improvement ever since his rookie season. He has a decent shot and is a force to be reckoned with along the boards. But he has developed a nasty habit over the past two years, inconsistency. If he can fix that, he will become a premier top six forward in the NHL in my opinion.
Clarke MacArthur (1.1):
MacArthur has exceeded expectations in a big way. He got off to a great start with seven goals in seven games and has continued his point production now racking up the assists. He is the main catalyst to the success that Grabovski and Kulemin have had this season. I have a lot of respect for MacArthur due to the fact he blames himself when the Leafs lose games despite being the leading point scorer on the team and exceeding expectations by a mile.
John Mitchell (725K):
Plain and simple, Mitchell should not be in the NHL.
Colton Orr (1.0):
Colton Orr is Colton Orr, he has fought when the Leafs needed it and for the most part has done his job. Although, it seems he has tailed off a bit lately. Right now he looks kinda useless on the ice not really making himself a dangerous presence.
Fredrick Sjostrom (725K):
Sjostrom’s wizardry on the penalty kill has ensured him a job in the NHL. His work along the boards makes him a tough player to play against. He needs to relax on the shots and get himself in better angles for good scoring chances.
Kris Versteeg (3.0):
Leafs fans jumped on Versteeg way too early and forgot the fact that Versteeg was transitioning into a team with less offensive skill than the stanley cup champs, much less! Thus, he wasn’t producing early. He is slowly picking up his game and has started to bury some pucks where they belong. A staggering -10 is the focal point of his stats.
Michael Zigomanis (AHL):
In his short time with the big club, Zigomanis stuck to his fourth line role blocking shots, killing penalties, and not trying to be fancy. He is now with the Toronto Marlies adding a veteran presence to their locker room. Dynamite in the face-off dot, i sometimes wonder why he is not with the Leafs right now.
Part two will focus on the Leafs defense and goaltending. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @SH_Leafs and provide your feedback to the discussion…