The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ recent end of season collapse will prove to be a blessing in disguise as it leaves no doubt the core of this team must drastically change.
The Maple Leafs’ core has now fallen apart at the end of the season twice in the last three seasons while looking like a playoff team entering the final month. Combine those collapses and the infamous 4-1 blown lead in Game 7 of last year’s first round playoff match-up, and there’s no more denying something is severely wrong with the core of this team.
This core group has run out of excuses. After the first collapse it was the coach’s fault and Ron Wilson was fired. After the playoff heart-breaker it was a devastating fluke as the core was only 10 minutes away from the second round. Now many will want to fire Randy Carlyle after the most recent collapse and bring in a third coach in four years to work with this group, but making a coaching change without giving the roster an overhaul will only delay what is painfully obvious.
It doesn’t matter who’s coaching the Maple Leafs because no coach will have better success with the team’s current defensemen and besides the top-line it’s impossible to predict what else Toronto will get offensively. A healthy Dave Bolland for the entire season would have helped, but it still wouldn’t have solved the issue as if he is the person who makes or breaks the Maple Leafs then the team would be pathetically fragile.
With Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, the Maple Leafs have a legitimate top-line. Dion Phaneuf and Morgan Rielly are the only positives on defense, and Jonathan Bernier has proven to be a quality starting goaltender when healthy. After those six players there’s nothing to be excited about on this roster.
Joffrey Lupul isn’t reliable due to his injuries and inconsistency; Nazem Kadri is even more inconsistent and awful defensively; Mason Raymond proved why last summer teams didn’t offer him anything more than a tryout; Cody Franson and Jake Gardiner continue to make the same mistakes, while James Reimer deserves a fresh start somewhere else next season.
The time for pretending this team will grow into anything greater than what they’ve proven to be over the last three years is officially over. The only way Toronto is going to change its success on the ice will be by finding a new core group of players.