Toronto Maple Leafs need to discover sense of urgency after tough stretch

Frederik Andersen #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs keeps an eye on a puck with Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks on his doorstep during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Frederik Andersen #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs keeps an eye on a puck with Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks on his doorstep during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Falling out of a playoff spot, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a tough road ahead as they begin their all-star break with more questions than answers.

The Toronto Maple Leafs got an immediate boost of adrenaline when Sheldon Keefe took over as head coach but it appears as if the effects are starting to wear off.

Not only did they have some embarrassing performances that re-emphasized the narrative around the team’s defensive struggles but Keefe also called out the Leafs for not learning from their mistakes.

"“I thought that we were an immature team down in Florida [losing 8-4 on Sunday]; I thought we were an immature team here today,” Keefe told reporters after their 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. “We’re not performing; we’re not playing with any level of discipline or consistency. When you go through these types of things, it’s just a sign of where you are, and that you’re not where you want to be. Reality checks come.”"

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Getting scolded like that by your head coach isn’t exactly the way you want to go into the bye week especially when you go from second to the Atlantic Division to 10th in the Eastern Conference. It’s tough to make excuses for the team’s performance even with Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin out of the lineup considering many teams go through injuries this time of the year.

There have been a lot of inconsistencies with the Leafs throughout the season and firing Mike Babcock was supposed to be the first step in improving that. Of course, there were some improvements with the team’s play offensively but defensively, you can say it’s more than just a work in progress.

Unfortunately, Frederik Andersen was the punching bag on social media during Saturday’s loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and while it was far from his best performance. the team didn’t exactly make life easier on him.

Andersen has had a rough stretch despite the team needing him to be the backbone with Rielly and Muzzin on IR. Since Muzzin went out on Dec, 28, Andersen has gone 3-1-3 with a 3.83 GAA and a .888 save percentage and Michael Hutchinson is 1-2 with a 3.10 GAA and a .894 save percentage.

It’s safe to say, the Leafs haven’t gotten the goaltending that will elevate them into Stanley Cup contenders but their defence hasn’t been good enough either. Unfortunately, there isn’t an immediate solution to the problem on the active roster so the only route that seems plausible is having Dubas make a trade.

This might seem like a panic mode move considering everything that has happened recently and unless Muzzin and Rielly can magically heal from their injuries, it’s tough to expect the team to stand idly by. It’s hard to blame those who are a bit impatient seeing Martin Marincin being asked to defend against Jonathan Toews, that’s a mismatch an opposing team will gladly take.

Rasmus Sandin has shown over the past couple of games that he deserves to remain with the team considering his offensive instincts and willingness to show some physicality. Beyond him and maybe Justin Holl, there aren’t a lot of defenders showing enough confidence that they can stop the bleeding.

What would also help is if the Leafs decide whether they are serious enough about improving their goaltending depth and try to make a move for Alexander Georgiev. Not only would the New York Rangers netminder provide a more permanent solution behind Andersen, he can also give Freddie some much-needed rest.

If you look around the league at what the Columbus Blue Jackets have been able to do despite Joonas Korpisalo being sidelined and Elvis Merzlikins providing a serious adrenaline boost.

So when it comes to what the Leafs need to do to get back on track, there isn’t a simple solution that can be solved by one player or one trade. It also comes with the team taking Andersen’s advice and looking in the mirror and deciding if they are willing to put in the work to get better.

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What do you think the Leafs need to do to get back on track? Can they get back into the playoff picture? Let us know in the comments below.