Toronto Maple Leafs: Who is to Blame for This Poor Start?

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Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis announces William Nylander (not pictured) as the number eight overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

We have seen many General Managers come in and try to fix this team. After John Ferguson Jr. (better known as the person who shall not be named) crippled the teams future Cliff Fletcher was brought in to try and fix it until a new GM could take over. In comes Brian Burke who vowed to instill truculence in this team. The first major move he made was trading away two first round picks, and a second for Phil Kessel. That proved to be a hefty price to pay but it continued a trend that has not worked out well for the Leafs, trading away draft picks that could have made the team better.

When Burke was fired Dave Nonis took over a decision which surprised a lot of people because most would have thought that if Burke was fired Carlyle, Nonis and everyone else would be left gone as well. Apparently the new owners were not confident with Burke being in charged especially with his vibrant personality. I also believe that Tim Leiweke had a say in this decision as well.

May 4, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski (84) brings the puck around the front of the net with Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) in goal during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

So under Dave Nonis the Toronto Maple Leafs were playing decent hockey in the lockout shortened season with some issues that people thought should be fixed like the defence and finding a centerman. What does he try to get? A goalie (more specifically Mikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo) because he was unsure if Reimer could handle the pressures of being at his best in the playoffs. After the game seven collapse the Leafs decided that it had enough with Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski who were not producing to the level that their contract was paying them (even though Burke and Nonis gave them those contracts). Nonis then signs David Clarkson to a contract that has been a thorn to his side in the off-season, trades for Jonathan Bernier (his best move as GM) then signs Paul Ranger and Mason Raymond to one year deals.

What Nonis failed to accomplish was get a top line center and a stud defenceman the biggest holes on the Leafs. Basically he along with the rest of the management team (Claude Loiselle and Dave Poulin) failed to realize that this team needed to improve the core of the Leafs. Instead they overpayed for a free agent (no surprise) and tried to morph the Leafs to suite Randy Carlyle. It did not work in Anaheim after they won the cup what made management think that it would work in Toronto?

Sep 28, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Joe Colborne (22) battles for a puck with Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ryan Sproul (48) during the first period in a game at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The one area that management has failed over the years was player evaluation, it’s funny because Brendan Shanahan just hired Mark Hunter for that job. For years the Leafs failed to properly evaluate players. Joe Colborne went from being a promising prospect who lost a roster spot to Colton Orr to being a key contributor on the Calgary Flames. That should be a tell tale sign that management has done a terrible job in evaluating players when you trade a player for basically nothing in order to keep a roster spot for a guy whose main job is to fight and he ends up being a player that you could use now.

Feb 2, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Former player Doug Gilmour (93) and Don Cherry (middle) and Ron MacLean (on left) stand for the playing of the anthems after ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Hockey Night In Canada before the Toronto Maple Leafs game against the Boston Bruins at the Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

There have been a lot of players that the Leafs have mismanaged and now the team does not have many options to help improve the team. Don Cherry constantly criticized the team for passing Canadians in the draft. The last significant player that they drafted who produced at a high level was Wendel Clark (Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour came via trades), contrary to Cherry the Leafs do draft Canadians but they fail to draft the players that can develop into more than depth player. They have improved with players like Connor Brown, Stuart Percy, Frederik Gauthier, and Antoine Bibeau but it has taken the team too long to realize that they were not wise with the way they drafted. One example was picking Tyler Biggs in the first round. He has not materialized into much and he may never become the player the Leafs had hoped for when they drafted him. They could have had a players like Boone Jenner or John Gibson who are producing in the NHL, but Burke picked an American born player that is struggling to play in the AHL.

For a team that has suffered as many collapses it should be evident to management that something has to change but they would rather wait and see if this team can figure things out. Honestly if this core group of players has failed to get the job done by now after three years they might never be able to figure things out. I can understand management wanting to be patient with this group but is there plan to turn this franchise around? James Mirtle wrote about this the other day.

I think for Leafs fans they do not care if it takes a couple of years, if the team starts to build into a contender with an identity and structure that can compete for the Stanley Cup they will be happy. Even though it should have been done a long time ago.

If I had to say right now who is responsible for the way this team has started poorly I would say that management is to blame because they hired the coach and his system and they decide which players they want to put on the ice.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.