GDT: Leafs/Panthers – The Backlash


MLHS Update: Richard Peddie is out as MLSE President/CEO according to Greg Brady. Given the state of MLSE’s three sports teams at the moment, this can’t come off as a major surprise.

The Toronto Maple Leafs complete their back to back Sunshine State games tonight as they visit the Florida Panthers, but there are issues starting to arise in the dressing room. During their 4-0 shutout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, I thought I would eventually see J.S. Giguere pull a Patrick Roy and start throwing the puck in his own net before demanding a trade from a Toronto team that does not seem to have any idea how to score a goal. Instead, he saved his frustrations for after the game when he called out his teammates for being lazy.

“This is a young group; we should have energy every game,” said Giguere. “We shouldn’t be tired. We have lots of days off. If you’re tired, you’ve got to rethink what you’re doing, because this is unacceptable.”

Unacceptable is an understatement as the Leafs try to avoid their seventh straight loss tonight. In a similar fashion, the Leafs powerplay has gone from decent to bad and Giguere did not hesitate from criticizing the Leafs lack of generated opportunities with the man-advantage.

“We had a big opportunity at the beginning of the game, a 5-on-3,” said Giguere. “When you get those chances at the beginning of the game, you’ve got to bury one, you’ve got to score. You’ve got to get something going.”

It’s been perhaps the most frustrating part of the Leafs game for me personally. During the 5 on 3 last night, Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin spent the duration of the powerplay passing the puck back and forth, not opening any shooting lanes and neither getting set up for the shot. Once that system failed, Ron Wilson turned his attention to the Versteeg-On-The-Point project, which has been horrendous.

Versteeg’s inability to utilize his teammates on most of his plays makes it easier for the opposition to converge on him at the side boards before forcing the puck out of their zone. While Versteeg shows flashes of talent, his shooting accuracy has not led to any positives on the offensive. In many ways, Versteeg is this year’s Lee Stempniak.

Aside from their second line of Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin – which also needs to continue to produce – the team seems to lack an overall chemistry. This needs to be accountable on behalf of the coach. I am not blaming the Leafs lack of success on Ron Wilson, but he needs to find a way to get these players gelling, and right now we’re not seeing it.

Ron Wilson is an intelligent coach. In the second period of last night’s game, he had the Leafs focusing on short and quick passes in order to break down the Lightning’s trap system. It worked and generated a few scoring chances, but after a few shifts, the Leafs resorted to the long stretch passes through the neutral zone that, ultimately, were picked off and lead to quite a few odd man rushes for the opposition.

If the Leafs want any chance of winning tonight against a Panthers team that wants to make an example of them on the ice after losing their “coach’s challenge” in the general manager’s meetings, they’ll need to buy into Ron Wilson’s system. It’s not about two or three players breaking out of their slump, it’s about the team as a whole playing as a unit and working for their chances – never giving up on the play.

Tomas Vokoun is expected to get the nod in goal for Florida tonight, while Gustavsson will likely make his appearance tonight in the back to back outings.

Who’s Hot? Toronto:

Tomas Kaberle 3 pts in last 3 GP
Mikhail Grabovski 4 pts in last 4 GP
Nikolai Kulemin 3 pts in last 4 GP

Who’s Hot? Florida:

Bryan McCabe 9 pts in last 9 GP
Michael Frolik 3 pts in last 2 GP
Stephen Weiss 3 pts in last 2 GP
Rostislav Olesz 3 pts in last 3 GP

Who’s Not? Toronto:

Jean-Sebastien Giguere (G) 0-2-1, 2.97, .888 in last 3 GPI
Phil Kessel (RW) 0 pts in last 6 GP

Who’s Not? Florida:

Tomas Vokoun (G) 0-1-0, 5.18, .800 in last 2 GPI

I will be liveblogging tonight’s game on The Checking Action gets underway at 7:15 PM EST.

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