Morgan Rielly’s dangerous attack on Ridly Greig on Saturday, a violent double-check to the neck of his opponent, punishable by a suspension of more than five games, will have done the Maple Leafs a favor in at least one chapter: divert attention to the team’s woeful performance.
This Saturday’s defeat against Ottawa was the seventh in twelve games for Toronto. The Maple Leafs are still well positioned for a playoff appearance, but they need to get back to winning or the end of the season will cause cold sweats for the organization and its fans.
The Leafs are just one point behind the Lightning and third in the Atlantic Division, with three more games remaining. But behind them, four non-qualified teams, the Islanders, Devils, Capitals and Penguins, are seven points or less. The Islanders are just four points behind, but with two games less to play. New Jersey is six points behind, but played the same number of games.
Toronto has disappointed in the playoffs in recent years, despite its success in the regular season. They always finished in the top 6 in the general classification since 2020. They are at 13e rank this winter and the 16e team in the standings, the St. Louis Blues, is only two points behind them.
Anything can happen once you make the playoffs, talk to last year’s finalists, the 17 Florida Pantherse in the standings, one point less than the Calgary Flames, although excluded from the playoffs in the West, but we could expect better from them, with a core in the prime of life.
Unsurprisingly, the attack is not a problem. Toronto ranks fourth in goals scored per game, with an average of 3.44, and third in power play efficiency, under their new specialist coach, Guy Boucher, but comes to 22e rank for goals allowed per game and shorthanded success rate.
We could not have predicted such a discomfiture from their goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov after his brilliant season last year. Rookie Joseph Woll shone before getting injured in early December. Veteran Martin Jones, hired last summer for one year at $875,000, saves the furniture.
The other summer acquisitions were a dead end for most. Fortunately, these were short-term agreements. We probably would have kept Ryan O’Reilly if he had wanted to stay, but we fell back on Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi on offense.
Domi does not harm the center of the third line. His enthusiasm and speed remain assets, but his understanding of the team game will not improve at almost 29 years old. He scored just his fifth goal of the season Saturday against the Senators. It was also only his third point in fifteen games. Only 25 points in 50 games. We expect a little better offensively for 3 million per year.
Bertuzzi is even more disappointing. We paid over 5 million to get it. Didn’t he score 30 goals two years ago? However, he scored only one goal more than Domi even though he had the best possible line partners. Bertuzzi has just one goal in his last 30 games. It goes beyond lethargy.
Right-handed defenseman John Klingberg lasted 14 games (disastrous), before being placed on the long-term injured list. It at least relieves the management of 4.1 million on the mass. As with Domi and Bertuzzi, he received a one-year contract only.
The colossus Ryan Reaves, 37, first recognized for his pugilistic talents, does not bring much to the ice, only two points in 25 games, but the sad distinction of having carved out a record of -12 in playing only seven minutes per game, but he is a must-see for the media in the locker room. He will hit 1.35 million again next year, and the following season. Highly paid to give good stories to our Toronto colleagues and almost nothing on ice cream…
The hiring of backup forward David Kampf didn’t get much attention. He had 8 points in 46 games before falling in action. Kampf, 29, earns 2.4 million per season. He will have three years left on his contract.
The new general manager in Toronto, Brad Treliving, who left the Calgary Flames in a terrible state, awarded all these new contracts. However, it is difficult to measure his degree of influence, with the presence above him of the omnipotent president Brendan Shanahan.
We will undoubtedly blame coach Sheldon Keefe if the Leafs’ season ends in a mess. Or will we sing the praises of management if Toronto recovers and surprises in the playoffs, like the Florida Panthers did last year. Players and managers always have the privilege of having the last word. For better and for worse.
Draft rankings explained
Friday’s column on the Canadian’s pick from the Winnipeg Jets highlighted the complexity of the draft ranking regulations. Contrary to what some may believe, the outcome of the playoffs only partially determines the position of the teams in question.
The four teams in the final four get the four worst draft picks: Stanley Cup winner on 32e choice, the finalist on 31eand the semi-finalists the 30e and 29e choice ; the holder of 29e choice will have amassed fewer points in the regular season than the other loser in the semi-final.
The rest of the positions, between 17e and the 28the rank, is determined by virtue of the position in the standings, regardless of the result of the first two rounds in the playoffs.
On the other hand, there may be a slight fluctuation since the winner of each section, if he does not reach the final four, will inherit the worst positions after the 29th.e rank. The Florida Panthers, for example, are in third place in the general rankings, but would be better positioned than the New York Rangers, one point behind, since they are first in the Metropolitan section.
So obviously these two clubs do not make it through the second round. But the variations are nevertheless minimal, as we said. In this specific case, and in the event of a failure before the final four of these two teams, the Panthers would draft 26ethe Dallas Stars (first in the Central, tied in the standings with the Panthers) 27e and Rangers 28e.
If the draft took place today, Montreal would inherit a place between the 24e and the 26the rank with the choice of the Jets obtained for Sean Monahan, in the event that Winnipeg does not reach the final four, and according to the identity of the semi-finalists. But there are still many matches to play!