Monday, March 22, 2010

Twelve factors behind the Leafs' sudden turnaround

Leafs win. No, really.Don't look now, but the rebuilt Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the hottest teams in the NHL since the Olympic break. The team has won six of their last seven, and seems to showing significant signs of hope after an otherwise awful season.

Why? What's changed? How can a team that's already bad trade away almost all of their veterans and suddenly emerge as a world beater?

I spent the weekend breaking down the video tape of the team's recent games, I've come to the conclusion that what we're seeing is actually the result of a combination of factors. Below are the twelves recent changes that I think have been the most important to the Leafs stunning turnaround.

  • Ron Wilson wisely ensured that Phil Kessel would be well-rested for the stretch run by ordering him to do absolutely nothing during the Olympics.

  • The team has responded well to newcomer Dion Phaneuf's legendarily inspiring pre-game motivational rock-bangings.

  • Since trading Vesa Toskala, the team's save percentage has improved to 1.000 on shots taken from behind the opponent's goal line.

  • After extensive research, the coaching staff discovered a loophole in NHL rulebook that allows a shorthanded team to shoot the puck all the way down ice without being called for icing. Did you know about that? Dude, it changes everything!

  • Tyler Bozak woke up one morning and decided to start being ridiculously good.

  • The absence of Lee Stempniak has created an opportunity for younger players to step into the role of a fourth-liner who contributes absolutely nothing.

  • Nikolai Kulemin has embraced the opportunity to spend time on the first line, kill penalties, and play during key defensive situations, experience that will prove invaluable when he's in the KHL next year.

  • Tomas Kaberle's steadfast refusal to waive his NTC and continued insistence that he wants to win a championship in Toronto has become an inspiration to the team's young players to win now, since they now realize that even a few seasons of NHL hockey can be enough to cause early onset of dementia.

  • Not completely sure, but there's an outside chance that facing second and third-string goalies every night has something to do with it.

  • Goaltending coach Francois Allaire has worked hard with Jonas Gustavsson to correct the flaws in his game, such as overcommitting on cross-ice passes, losing track of rebounds, and letting his heart explode in the middle of key games.

  • After almost five years, finally got around to practicing this shootout thing.

  • The team's veterans are motivated by the knowledge that if they play poorly enough, Brian Burke won't hesitate to demote them to the team's AHL affiliate in Calgary.


  1. the leafs don't have an AHL affiliate in Calg.. ooooooooh

  2. Good list, #5 is especially true. I think you might have omitted a pretty simple factor from the list though...

    It's March!

  3. Who the hell is Lee Stempniak and what the hell did he ever had to do with the Leafs?


  4. Cracks at Toskala make my day

  5. and ofcourse the Leafs being the Best team in the league when it doesnt matter

  6. I think #13 is that history shows that starting a goalie named J.S in March/April equals wins (sample size, n=1)

  7. Good list. I was expecting a line on playing the Sens twice.

  8. "AHL affiliate in Calgary"

    That is why you're awesome

  9. There's also that cunning blockbuster trade for "Fast Freddie" Sjostrom, in which that relative unknown Dion something-or-other was acquired, too.

    Dang! All my favorite ex-Rangers are moving to Toronto. What's the odds of y'all getting Blair Betts, too?

  10. Oh Leafs, you kill me

  11. Hahaha! Thanks again, assistant GM Darryl Sutter

  12. Great post.

    For you fellow Leafs fans, you should also check out this article on why we have reason to be optimistic. Really liked it.

  13. You mean Yann Danis isn't the starting goaltender for The New Jersey Devils?!? But he played such a vital role when the Bulldogs won the Memorial cup in 06/07. I could think of no other keeper who could have backed up Carey Price at that time..........

    I head that the Panthers are calling up prospect Tyler Plante for tonights game for the sole reason of him having a "solid goaltender name".

  14. And by memorial, I obviously meant Calder Cup.....

  15. Take a look at the stats since grabovsky returned. won 6 lost 18 while he was out, won 6 lost 1 since his return. could that be another factor.

  16. AHL affiliate in Calgary. GOLD, sir.

  17. Just to be fair, Stempniak is on a similar goal scoring pace in Phoenix to what Kessel is in T.O.

  18. Sorry bud but if you think the Flames are the Leafs AHL affiliate you are on crack.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs have been the worst run franchise in hockey for the past 30 years.

    Have fun cheering for that ECHL team that you call your hockey heroes.

  19. Hey look above me, someone on the internet that doesn't understand an obvious joke. I heard they were very rare on the internet and when you do find one it's best not to point out their failure at humanity to avoid their defense mechanism, all caps comments about how the make love to your mother.

    Anyways good stuff!

  20. hahaha genius again dgb.. the one about toskala and the save percentage is gold. Well played.