If the Toronto Maple Leafs’ latest struggles have shown anything, it’s the lack of dependable defensive depth they have on the right side.
Don’t let the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders overshadow the problems that have crept into their game the last few weeks.
It all started when they went on the road to take on the Colorado Avalanche, a team that will give any team a tough challenge. The Leafs managed to put themselves in a great position to win, only to allow a 4-1 lead to slip away in typical fashion.
After that, the Leafs’ inability to hold a lead started to turn into a trend. Every time they went up 3-1, it was tough to feel comfortable about the team’s chances to hold the lead especially if they were up early in the game.
Being down the team’s supposed shutdown pairing in Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl doesn’t help but it also reveals the major issue. The team just doesn’t have the high-end depth that can step up especially in the minors.
The solution for the Leafs in their first game without Muzzin was to add Alex Biega to the lineup and put Timothy Lijegren and Rasmus Sandin together. What proceeded was a brutal 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers where the Leafs blue line looked overwhelmed and outmatched.
It was so bad that Sheldon Keefe went on to say that the Leafs played “soft and purposeless” which he would later clarify in saying that the team’s standards were slipping. This is a group that was a strong defensive team in the first part of the season and also relied heavily on Jack Campbell who was putting up elite numbers.
Here is the thing, it’s been made known that teams need to have at least seven or eight defencemen that they can rely on to get them through a season. When you look beyond Toronto’s six regular defenders, it’s tough to feel confident in their options if they are hit with a significant injury.
Now you are seeing the chatter start to pick up as NHL insiders try to gauge what could be available on the market before the trade deadline. It’s really tough to know for sure because what the Leafs need isn’t easy to acquire.
In an ideal world, Kyle Dubas would be able to find a defenceman that fits the role Zach Bogosian brought. A steady defensive presence that could kill penalties, block shots and provide some much-needed physicality which is in short supply with this Leafs backend.
We’ll dive deeper into the possible targets over the next few days as you get the sense that this is an issue the Leafs cannot overlook.
Are you concerned about the Leafs’ recent play? How do you think the team fixes the problem? Let us know in the comments below.