The hockey world was buzzing over the news that Brian Burke bumped into Columbus general manager Scott Howson in New York on Sunday, a meeting that the Leafs president reportedly claimed was unscheduled.
Even if the encounter was arbitrary, as is believed, you have to suspect that Rick Nash’s name came up in the midst of the Maple Leafs’ recent scoring woes up front.
While much of the focus (and legitimately so) these days has been on the Leafs’ inconsistent goaltending, a breakdown of the scoring statistics reveals there are significant concerns about the forward ranks, as well.
Simply put, the top line of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul is lugging far too much of the offensive load right now, especially on a team that this season has boasted of sporting scoring depth.
When head coach Ron Wilson said he was glad to see Nikolai Kulemin find the back of the net late in the Leafs’ humbling 6-2 thumping at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, he was probably more relieved than anything else. Kulemin, after all, is just one member of a gaggle of Toronto forwards who are slogging through offensive dry spells right now, ill-timed slumps for a team that can’t afford them here in the stretch run for a playoff spot.
Consider these perturbing funks:
-- Tim Connolly: 1 goal in his past 19 games.
-- Nikolai Kulemin: 1 goal in his past 17 games.
-- Mikhail Grabovksi: 0 goals in his past 8 games.
-- Clarke MacArthur: 0 goals in his past 6 games.
-- Matthew Lombardi: 1 goal in his past 11 games.
-- Joey Crabb: 0 goals in his past 11 games.
-- David Steckel: 0 goals in his past 18 games.
-- Darryl Boyce: 0 goals in his past 9 games.
-- Mike Brown: 0 goals in his past 27 games.
-- Jay Rosehill: 0 goals in his past 16 games.
-- Colby Armstrong: 0 goals in his past 16 games.
The only forwards on the parent roster not listed here: Kessel, Bozak and Lupul.
If you add up those individual slumps, it comes out to three goals in 158 games played.
You can all pick your jaws up off the floor, now.
Burke and his right-hand man, Dave Nonis, had angry scowls on their faces as they stormed out of the Rogers Arena press box for the second intermission on Saturday, and rightly so.
Watching your team get roughed up 6-2 is never fun.
Watching it happen against the Vancouver Canucks, a franchise you both despise, well, that cuts deep to the core.
Make no mistake here. There is no love lost between these two organizations. In fact, there is no doubt that Burke, the one-time GM of the Canucks, and Mike Gillis, who holds that position right now, have not always seen eye-to-eye.
The Maple Leafs GM was poised to woo the Sedin twins to Toronto in the summer of 2009 when Daniel and Henrik were on the verge of becoming unrestricted free agents. Gillis ended up re-signing the Sedins, but not before making a final trip to Sweden to get it done,
Wilson subsequently was slapped with a $25,000 US fine for tampering by the league after he told a Toronto radio station that the team was interested in the Sedins. Wilson’s comments came prior to July 1, meaning the twins were still Canucks property,
Don’t forget, as well, that Nonis was let go as Canucks GM in 2008, unfairly railroaded out of town despite making some shrewd moves, including practically stealing franchise goalie Roberto Luongo in a one-sided deal with the Florida Panthers.
Nonis’ replacement? Mike Gillis.
You can bet the sight of his Canucks humiliating the Leafs on national television was somewhat sweet for Gillis. For Burke and Nonis, not so much.
Hockey Night In Canada has not been kind to the Leafs the past two Saturdays. During that period, Toronto has been outscored by a combined margin of 11-2 in losses to the Montreal Canadiens and the Canucks ... The Leafs are 4-5-1 since the all-star break.
NET RESULTS ARE TROUBLING
The story of the James Reimer/Jonas Gustavsson goaltending duo is a simple one.
When they’ve been good, they’ve been very good. From Gustavsson’s sizzling January to Reimer’s back-to-back shutouts earlier this month, they’ve both offered a peek at how high they can set the bar.But when they’ve been bad, ugh!
Entering play Sunday, 26 of the 30 National Hockey League teams sported a goaltender with at least 24 appearances who had a goals-against average of 2.80 or lower.
The lone four who didn’t? The Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators.
Of more concern is the fact that the Leafs have allowed three goals or more in 41 of their 59 games thus far. In other words, in every two of their three outings versus Toronto, the opposition can expect to put up at least a three-spot.
Part of the recent goaltending woes can be traced to the way Reimer and Gustavsson have been playing so deep in the net. Using the standard butterfly technique is fine but, at some point, you have to come off your goal line and challenge shooters to some degree.
What these two can not afford to keep doing is allow early goals. Opponents scored within the first 10 minutes of play in each of the Leafs three games on their Western Canadian swing through Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, paving the way for Toronto to register just two of a possible six points on the trip.