After an outstanding start to the 2013-’14 NHL season (at least in the standings), the Leafs have kind of fallen back in a state that has become somewhat concerning.
They show flashes of solid play, and against the LA Kings on Wednesday night, played one of their most complete games of the season. But defensive lapses, inconsistent play combined with missing some key players have all conspired to give them a no-longer-imposing record of 16-14-3—good for a quite modest 35 points after 33 games.
The St. Louis game was a relatively late start, so I will get to the point: The Leafs are not far off from the half-way point of the season. There has been time to adjust to the roster realities of injuries (e.g. Bolland). They have, the last two nights and some isolated games here and there aside, received pretty darn good netminding this year. Yet they too often continue to struggle and can’t seem to find their form—or that second gear—on a consistent basis.
What’s my point? Simply this, that it is time for a statement game from the Leafs. In fact, it is time for a statement month. A good effort from time to time from this or that player is not sufficient. A solid 60-minute game is not enough. The LA game was maybe the closest we have come to stringing together what we could legitimately call an almost complete game (yes, there were some individual breakdowns, but by and large the work ethic, tenacity and grit was there) but we still lost.
So the time has come for raising expectations. Right now they are pretty low, as in, “well, let’s hope they play hard” or “let’s see if they will start to play a full 60 minutes”. We’re talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s not enough to wish for good efforts, or even just a playoff spot. We’ve been to the post-season once in a decade.
In my mind, this was supposed to be the year that we strove for something serious in the Eastern Conference.
No, I’m not negative. I still believe they can make things happen. But I’ve talked about it enough. So have they. I want to see “statement” play. Full stop.
Do you agree?