Despite having one of the better finishes to the year, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished dead last in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs for the 5th straight year since the lockout. The Leafs don’t even have the comfort that they’ll get a high draft pick this summer, since they dealt their 2010 and 2011 first rounders to Boston for Phil Kessel last summer.
Offense: D- The fact that Kessel missed the first 12 games and still finished with the team lead in goals and points is less of a testament to his scoring ability than the team’s overall struggles this season. The Leafs that finished the year were a much different team than the one that started the year, as Brian Burke pulled off a couple huge trades that literally changed the face of the team. Five of the team’s top 6 forwards were dealt away in the deals that brought Dion Phaneuf and JS Giguere to Toronto. Nikolai Kulemin had a strong season, and seemed to gel nicely with Kessel and rookie Tyler Bozak, who was particularly impressive at the end of the year. In only 37 games, Bozak had 19 assists and 27 points. >
Defense: D The Leafs gave up the 2nd most goals in the league this year. For a team that devoted most of last offseason to improving their blueline, it’s safe to say things didn’t go as planned. Only so much of the defensive woes can be attributed to poor goaltending. Mike Komisarek missed most of the year with injuries, and Francois Beauchemin finished with a disappointing -13 rating. Luke Schenn got over a terrible start to the season and finished with a +2 rating. Carl Gunnarsson was a nice find, as he showed that he was capable of handling the puck well at both ends of the ice, but the biggest change on defense was the addition of Dion Phaneuf, who should probably be named team captain next year.
Goaltending: D Vesa Toskala may go down as one of the worst goalies in Leaf history, as he won only 7 games in 26 appearances, posting a dismal .874 save percentage and 3.66 GAA before being traded to Anaheim. Jonas Gustavsson was hot and cold for most of the season, battling through two heart procedures and a groin injury before coming on strong after the Olympic break. With JS Giguere and goalie coach Francois Allaire as mentors, Jonas Gustavsson has lots of potential, and if he can build on the success he had at the end of the year, the Leafs could have the franchise goalie they’ve needed since Curtis Joseph.
Special Teams: F The Leafs had the worst penalty kill and the worst powerplay in the league this year. At one point, the Leafs were killing off less than 70% of their penalties, a feat that has only been accomplished by a small number of teams in league history. The powerplay wasn’t terrible at the beginning of the year, but after the big trades and the roster shakeup, Toronto never really got their powerplay back in sync.