This game might come as a shock to fans who decided to pick up Leaf fandom for the first time during the recent 10-1-1 hot streak; a stretch of five losses in six games might even seem like the type of blip that most teams have to play through at some point in the 82-game grind.

For Leafs fans with a memory, it was as predictable as it was depressing to watch. Over the past three seasons, fans and pundits have often wondered who the real Leafs are — the group that collapses catastrophically or the one that goes on the tantalizing, high-percentages-fuelled winning streaks. The right answer is probably “neither,” but It’s become pretty clear this team’s reality is closer to the former.

The fact that the Leafs just lost two games back to back in which they had significantly better PDO (save percentage + shooting percentage) than their opponent is a testament to just how bad their possession game is.

Randy Carlyle talking about failures to “respect the puck” is the right message but appears to be entirely lost on the group. The fact that this Leafs team is the highest scoring outfit in the League should mean little to those following it closely. This group has the process of playing the right way and letting the goals come from there exactly backwards. Again tonight there was zero structure or attention to detail in the Leafs‘ game; it’s firewagon hockey at its worst.

It’s a tough thing to write having loved his offensive contributions over the past four seasons, but on too many nights Phil Kessel has had little involvement besides taking off for stretch passes that don’t connect more than half the time and throwing some shots at the net on the powerplay. Five points in five games doesn’t at all tell the story of his recent performance.

James van Riemsdyk has in some respects come to encompass the frustrations of following this team with his ability to throw up a three-point game here and there while consistently turning pucks over cavalierly, missing defensive assignments, arriving late to plays on the wall in the defensive zone and often coming up second best in one on one battles.

If, like on the game-deciding goal tonight, Clarkson isn’t even capable of playing his position properly and providing an outlet option on the half board… There aren’t really any words left.

You have to like Joffrey Lupul’s effort level from shift to shift lately, but even he struggles mightily at times with making plays off the defensive half wall on his offside and it led to flurries where the Leafs were pinned in their own zone tonight.

Overall, as bad as, say, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson may have played the past couple of games, it’s tough to judge any one player when the Leafs’ overall support play is so abysmal. It’s not the line combinations, it’s not the scoring depth (something they solved), and it’s not strictly down to Carlyle’s usage or deployment. It’s about a flawed core and a lack of execution inside failing systems.

It’s not as simple as just blaming an individual or a couple of individuals. A number of the players mentioned are talented individuals who could all be part of a winning team if the composition is right and they buy into a working system. But the sum is adding up to less than the parts in Toronto, the pieces aren’t fitting. It’s a flawed roster, but it’s not expansion team-bad and yet the Leafs’ embarrassing shot totals and possession time are right on par again with some of the worst teams in recent League history.

It’s not clear when it’s coming, but at this point it’s just a case of waiting for the trade or the firing that is going to get the ball rolling on much-needed change.

Possession Chart

chart (14)


Shot Location Chart



Maple Leafs vs. Lightning Game Sheet

D. PhaneufD0110001211-3:164:0323:37
C. FransonD0001003200-3:162:2020:23
J. LupulL1010231200-0:420:0017:07
D. BoothL000-1433012-0:000:0013:43
J. van RiemsdykL0001030000-3:111:2516:42
T. SmithC000000000075%0:000:006:49
P. HollandC000-101110136%0:005:0317:16
M. SantorelliC1011020010-0:000:2213:25
D. WinnikC0000001010-0:005:0611:40
C. AshtonR0000011000-0:000:007:23
T. BozakC011003201155%2:211:5521:09
N. KadriC011101101045%1:390:0014:54
M. RiellyD0000010101-0:341:1617:44
R. PolakD0000001210-0:074:2321:31
J. GardinerD0000210000-0:260:0018:42
K. HolzerD000-1012300-0:212:3518:26
D. ClarksonR000-101100067%1:030:0012:55
P. KesselR0110020000-3:040:0020:50
J. Reimer (6-6-0)36 - 382 - 30 - 038 - 410.927058:37:00
10 %
10 %
Special Teams
50 %
90 %
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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at