Toronto Maple Leafs: Recent Struggles Taking Nasty Effect on Team


Toronto Maple Leafs: Recent Struggles Taking Nasty Effect on Team

Feb 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing

James van Riemsdyk

(21) is shoved by Winnipeg Jets defenseman

Jacob Trouba

(8) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Scorched earth and tanking, phrases that have become the constant talk around the Toronto Maple Leafs ever since Peter Horachek took over as head coach following Randy Carlyle‘s dismissal. It has not been an easy time for the team who have gone winless on the road to start 2015 (a franchise record 14 games) with only two wins . The mindset for some fans is pushing for the Leafs to plummet in the standings to improve their odds at Connor McDavid.

Recent rumours about management being given the green light to move out players that do not fit in the future plans of the team has made life difficult for the players. One particular player that was not too pleased with the idea of trying to scrap as many players as possible was Joffrey Lupul.

Lupul also notes that while it is hard to tear the team down from scratch, the team has to be ready to do their job every night.

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Lupul was not exactly too thrilled to be talking about the potential teardown because from what it sounds like, he does not want to see this team play a bunch of young players. These are the players that have been mentioned on the Leafs trade block: Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak, Daniel Winnik, and even Lupul. Now it is unlikely that the Leafs will be able to get much out of Lupul, which means that he will likely stay in Toronto.  If he is staying, Lupul is now at the point where he wants to know what the plan is because if the team is going to be playing like this for the next couple of years, it is not an ideal situation for him.

Is it important for management to have a conversation with a player like Lupul about the direction that this team is going? Yes, but as TSN analyst Aaron Ward mentioned in an interview on Leafs Lunch, Lupul has to let management do their job. His job is to play at his best every night and be a leader on and off the ice for the younger players like Morgan Rielly.

Feb 7, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward

Jordan Eberle

(14) goes after a loose puck as Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman

Morgan Rielly

(44) and defenceman

Roman Polak

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

Rielly is a vital component to the Leafs future, the team tried to insulate him and Jake Gardiner with players like Roman Polak and Stephane Robidas so that both Rielly and Gardiner had a veteran presence on and off the ice to help in their development. Rielly prides himself with the way he plays and to see some players not give the effort needed to win has made it frustrating for him, which was apparent with his recent comments about the team’s struggles. You can read more about the situation here.

Now people continue to blame the Toronto media for being to overbearing on players and the Leafs but if the player warrants the attention then the media will be all over the story. However it is fans not the media that took this comment and made it into this public outrage.

That very same media that everyone is quick to judge about the Leafs’ problems had this response to Rielly’s  comments.

Not too long ago Phil Kessel had this to say about the talk surrounding him being shipped out of town.

This is not exactly a great environment to be around for players because many of them are uncertain about their future. After Olli Jokinen played his first game with the Leafs he had this to say about the team’s recent slump.

Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward

Nazem Kadri

(43) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul (19) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Now Jokinen did clarify that it is not the players that are being negative rather the attention surrounding them is negative. It speaks to why Lupul, Kessel  and Rielly vent their frustration about the tough situation the Leafs are in especially because the team had some success this season and now it is all going to be teared down to the studs. It is uncertain of what the actual plan from management is and the players will have to find a way to deal with the situation unless management relieves the team of its negative energy.

Imagine an environment where as a player you are struggling to put together wins and when you do win fans are frustrated because you are ruining the plan to basically lose every game to get a good draft pick. It is not a great environment to be in and management should not want their young players to be front and center with constant negativity.

Feb 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) passes the puck to center Nazem Kadri (43) before Kadri would score on the play against the Winnipeg Jets at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Players like Rielly and Nazem Kadri will find it hard to remain positive during the Leafs growing pains especially when the time calls for these players to be leaders. This is why the Leafs need their veteran leaders to step in and take the attention off their young players because they have not experienced this before and need to see how they should deal with this situation.

The Buffalo Sabres brought in older players like Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, and Andrej Meszaros who have dealt with their fair share of growing pains in the past and tried to have them support their younger players during this tough time for the franchise. During this rebuild the Leafs will need to bring in the right players that can help the young players mature into the right players both on and off the ice while dealing with the negativity of their situation going forward. They do not necessarily have to overpay to bring these players in but be realistic with what you need these players to do.