Toronto Maple Leafs: Dave Nonis Not Concerned With Team’s Struggles


Toronto Maple Leafs: Dave Nonis Not Concerned With Team’s Struggles

Dec 31, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis at a press conference during practice the day before the Winter Classic hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. Phaneuf signed a 7-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The mood at practice for the Toronto Maple Leafs was tense on Wednesday. The number of media personnel that made their way down to the MasterCard Center had more people than usual, but that was not the only difference. Brendan Shanahan, Dave Nonis, Kyle Dubas and Cliff Fletcher were also on hand for practice. After two straight blowout losses it is no surprise to see all hands on deck, as it sends a message to the players that everything they do will now be under closer scrutiny. Nonis talked to media after practice, expressing the fact that he is not concerned with the Leafs recent losses.

It seems like Nonis wants to look calm while his team is struggling, but it seems he has simply lost sight of the issues with this team.

Nov 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach

Randy Carlyle

calls out from his bench in the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing he said was that no one in the media questioned Randy Carlyle’s job security when the team went 6-1-1 and beat the Boston Bruins 6-1. Guess what Nonis – that win against the Bruins was the only time in a long while where the Leafs actually played their system for a full 60 minutes. The worst part was that the Bruins were missing Zdeno Chara and David Krecji, two very important players on the Bruins. Granted the Leafs did chase Tuukka Rask out of the net and got good chances, but to say the win against the Bruins gives this team a mulligan on being blown out by the Buffalo Sabres – the worst team in the league – and the Nashville Predators is wrong.

May 13, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Boston Bruins left wing

Brad Marchand

(63) and center

Tyler Seguin

(19) react after a goal during OT in game seven of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Nonis said at the beginning of the season that he tried to bring back some of the pieces that contributed to the lockout shortened season success. What Nonis failed to realize was that you cannot look at something that happened in the past and hope it can help your team in the future. Plus calling that season a success speaks volumes on how Nonis is thinking more about short term goals instead of the big picture. The Leafs should be trying to improve on their play everyday and cannot be satisfied because of some positive play in a short time-frame. This team has not done enough to just sit back and say the way they played is good enough, because in the past they have not been good enough.

I’m sure that most of you feel this way and one tweet I read actually outlines why that recent Leafs 6-1-1 streak should not be praised.

Oct 25, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins center

David Krejci

(46) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal in the second period past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie

Jonathan Bernier

(45) at Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

This tweet is perfect, because in those eight games the Leafs played against five backup goalies and the Sabres. If the Leafs had a losing record in that eight game span, what would we be saying about the Leafs now? Frankly, the fact Nonis had used this as an argument to tell the media to relax is not the best thing to say. He should have said that the team was finding ways to win after a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Bruins, but to say that they were playing great hockey speaks to the how Nonis evaluates his team’s performance.

Sep 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender

Steve Mason

(35) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (62) during the second period at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

If Nonis’ time as GM is ticking to an end then, he, like Brian Burke whom he succeeded, was not able to get the Leafs a true number one center and defenceman. The Leafs spent so much time adding insignificant pieces, that it never took the time to make the big move or decide that it had to take a step back to get a better draft pick. The only players the Leafs have that can become future stars are Morgan Rielly and William Nylander, but at this time there is no guarantee they can amount to anything.

Nov 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing

David Clarkson

(71) skates with the puck as New York Rangers defenseman

Marc Staal

(18) backchecks at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Rangers 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Nonis said he does not want to make a deal right now, because he feels like it would be a knee jerk reaction. The problem is that he is afraid to make a deal that might not work out, because he knows his job is on the line. The ironic thing is that Nonis made a knee-jerk reaction after the Leafs lost game seven against the Bruins. James Mirtle wrote an article about how Nonis has been a part of the Leafs demise. Mirtle referred to the David Clarkson contract as a knee-jerk reaction that will haunt the Leafs when it comes to the salary cap and trying to bring in players. Mirtle also said that Nonis was prepared to offer Dave Bolland a big contract, but the centre decided to go to Florida. Nonis has made it difficult to add talent to this team, because a lot of cap space is allocated to the players that are not performing. The only way for Nonis to make a move is if someone is shipped out as part of a bigger deal.

Feb 27, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward

Clarke MacArthur

(16) celebrates a goal on Montreal Canadiens goaltender

Carey Price

(31) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Nonis has the nerve to preach patience! Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin, and Mikhail Grabovski are no longer with the team, because they could not get along with Carlyle. Understand this – those three players were a solid with the Leafs  because they gave their best effort on every shift, and yet they somehow got worse under Carlyle. Then Nonis trades for Jonathan Bernier, which in my opinion sent a message to the players that goaltending was the reason why the Leafs lost to the Bruins in game seven. Granted Bernier played well last year, but there were other areas of the team that needed to improve and Nonis failed to do anything about it.

Dec 8, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman

Cody Franson

(4) and defenseman

Dion Phaneuf

(3) and defenseman

Jake Gardiner

(51) look on from the bench against the Boston Bruins at Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

I am not even as mad about Dion Phaneuf‘s contract. The issue I have is that he has had no help ever since he arrived in Toronto. His partners have been Carl Gunnarsson and Cody Franson – that does not strike me as top pairing defencemen. The problem is that no other team is willing to trade a good young defenceman who has the potential of being a top two player on the back end – teams draft and develop those players. The Leafs unfortunately do not have a prospect that is ready to take that role right now, which is why Phaneuf is still here. If the Leafs had other option then he would have probably been traded or let go. Now the only thing the Leafs can do is try to get a player that can support Phaneuf, because right now he is dealing with his own struggles without anyone to back him up.

Nov 6, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center

Logan Couture

(39) and center

Joe Pavelski

(8) celebrate after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The other glaring issue has been the search for a number one centre. Oh how the Leafs wished that they can trade for one. Hey Nonis it is 2014! Smart teams draft and develop their number one centres, not necessarily in the top five but in the top 15 at least. Look at San Jose with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski (who is technically a winger) – they are players that can take over for Joe Thornton at any time. The Bruins had to trade away Tyler Seguin because they already had Patrice Bergeron and Krecji, who by the way were not even first round draft picks. The Detroit Red Wings are a perfect example of a team that does not even need to be a major player in free agency, because of how well they draft. So why can’t the Leafs do this? In the past, first round draft picks were worthless to the Leafs and when they did draft a player they would usually trade them for a quick fix. Now there is no player on the roster that has shown us that they can be the future number one guy for the Leafs. Nazem Kadri has not done enough to earn that right now and it remains to be seen whether he will do that.

Sure it would be nice to have a Connor McDavid – he is the type of player this team has been missing since Mats Sundin left. The problem is their is no chance of tha,t because the Leafs are not as bad as Buffalo but not good enough to challenge for a playoff spot. (Although that could change.) Either this team makes a move to get in position to draft a better player or they will continue to suffer the same fate over and over again.

Nov 8, 2014; Sunrise, FL, USA; An overall photo of the crowd and opening face off in a game between the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. The Flames won 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Do you want to know why the Leafs can never say they are going to do a rebuild? It is because they cannot justify charging the highest price for tickets. The sad part of that is the fans would probably be patient for a rebuild if that meant the Leafs had a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. The Leafs continually make the same mistakes over and over again and it is a shame, because if the same team was in a place like Florida or Arizona they would be struggling to make money.

Nov 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman

Rob Scuderi

(4) and defenseman

Christian Ehrhoff

(10) celebrate a goal by forward

Pascal Dupuis

(9) as Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf (3) skates away during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Pittsburgh 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

My final criticism on Nonis is about the team’s identity. A team is supposed to be a reflection of the GM. He hires the coach that plays the style that he wants and he gets the players that he knows will execute the style of play he wants.

If I had to say what the identity of the Leafs is, it is  a team that lacks the discipline and intensity to compete consistently in the NHL. At times it looks like the players are disinterested when they are on the ice. The worst part is the number of mistakes the team makes during the game are so bad that sometimes it seems the team does not care. It starts with the captain – there are times where Phaneuf looks so out of place that it rubs off on the players. Phil Kessel is forced to do more on his own, because he really has no one else that can play at his level. Then you have Joffrey Lupul, who is the one player the team needs more than anyone else, but he is sidelined with another injury.

There is a reason why Don Cherry calls out the Leafs for their lack of drafting more Canadians, because they know how to play with discipline. When I watch Team Canada play I wonder why the Leafs can’t achieve close to that level at both ends of the ice and the reason is because the players simply can’t play that style. They try to play flashy, score off the rush and refuse to battle when necessary. Unfortunately that is not what makes a Stanley Cup team – elite teams compete, battle and protect the puck. The culture of this team will never change unless Nonis or Shanahan makes drastic move with the core players on the team.