1) Toronto Maple Leafs take a step back in their development
So it turns out it wasn’t all Babcock’s fault after all, even though he arguably still had to go after losing the team. Ultimately the roster still failed to show any consistency, despite Keefe’s less combative coaching style.
(There has been some criticism of Keefe, claiming that Babcock was never so badly outcoached in a postseason game, but it seems unfair to level this at a young head coach in his first such series. Apart from being up against the excellent John Tortorella, Keefe is only going to learn and grow from the experience versus Columbus.)
This lack of consistency was on display during the play-in series with Columbus. This was to such an extent that you didn’t know what to expect out of the Leafs from period to period, never mind game to game.
This was best highlighted by setting NHL history in Game 4, as reported by the Canadian Press via TSN. They became the first team to overcome a deficit of three or more goals to win, after surrendering a lead of three or more goals to lose their previous game.
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We want to be cautious about being too critical of president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Kyle Dubas, just because of how far they have come in rebuilding the Leafs. At one point this was a franchise which had the longest active postseason drought in the NHL and had just one playoff series in 11 years.
Regardless, it is clear to all that something is wrong with the current roster. After four consecutive years of failing to advance past the opening round of the postseason, the team actually appears to have taken a step back.
This regression seems inconceivable when you consider how much talent is on the roster, with the likes of Frederik Andersen, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Tavares, Marner and of course Matthews. Throw in young prospects like Nick Robertson and this team should be further along in its development.
So what’s the answer? Certainly, the blue line still needs to be strengthened, but Shanahan and Dubas still need to get to the bottom of the aforementioned lack of consistency.
With Keefe and Babacock offering two different coaching styles and getting similar responses overall, this is on the players. Why are they so inconsistent as a collective and is this a core group which is just destined never to get it done on the big stage?
Certainly it must be very frustrating for the fans, as when the team is on, they’re tough to stop. Never was this more evident than the end of Game 4, when they ripped apart one of the top blue lines in the NHL.
Moving forward the Leafs will have to improve the roster, although this will be compromised by the ‘Big Four’ taken up half of a salary cap which is now locked until further notice. As much as Shanahan and Dubas have accomplished during their time in Toronto, they now face the difficult task of getting the team to the next level.
What is your number one takeaway from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ series loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets? Are you still optimistic about the future, or concerned about where the team goes from here? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.