Monday, September 11, 2006

The 2006-07 Maple Leafs
Where will the goals come from?

Last season, one of the saving graces of a team that didn’t have many was the fact the Toronto Maple Leafs power play was ranked 2nd in the league. Weak at even strength, the team’s dominance on the power play lifted Toronto to 9th overall in goal scoring in 2005-06.

Given the Leafs finished as one of the league’s worst teams defensively (21st in goals against), the fact they were able to score is what kept them within striking distance of a playoff spot.

Heading into this season’s training camp without the likes of Jason Allison (17 goals) and Eric Lindros (11 goals), there are questions about just where the goals will come from this year.

If 254 goals scored puts the Leafs back in 9th spot, what happens if they can’t quite hit that mark again? Dropping even 20 goals from the lineup would mean falling to 20th spot (or beyond) in scoring — something I don’t imagine will allow Toronto to sneak into the playoffs, regardless of how improved the team’s defensive game is.

When I look at the team’s current lineup and project how many goals they will have, the numbers simply aren’t adding up to 254. Far from it.

Which makes me wonder: Who among these players are capable of more than what's listed?

Sundin 30
O'Neill 25
Steen 20
Tucker 20
McCabe 18
Ponikarovsky 18
Wellwood 15
Peca 14
Stajan 14
Antropov 12
Kaberle 10
Kilger 10
Kubina 8
Suglobov 5
Colaicovo 4
The rest (Pohl, White, Earl, Gill) 8

The total, based on those numbers? 231 goals.

That’s a sum scantly better than the Washington Capitals managed, and they were 23rd in goals scored in 2005-06.

Where will the Leafs fit in this time around?


At 2:17 a.m., September 12, 2006, Anonymous zanstorm said...

Well, they will play more defensively under Maurice and surrender less goals. But I also think the youth on the team should improve their goal output as well. Especially guys like Stajan, Steen, and by George, Jeff O'Neil better step up too!

At 9:28 a.m., September 12, 2006, Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I could see Tucker and Steen producing a little more but O'Neill I think is done.

Man, they have some issues.

At 12:40 p.m., September 12, 2006, Blogger ninja said...

It's tough to respond to your flawed premise that 254 goals puts the Leafs back in 9th.

Last year they gave up 263, so they were -9, and that got them 9th spot. So, if they end up on the black side of the ledger, improving on 9th shouldn't be too much of a problem.

And let's talk about these devastating subtractions of Allison and Lindros. First, Eric played 33 games, and scored almost all of his goals in the first half of those games. Defensively, he was still a negative player. So I'd say losing Lindros is neither here nor there. Didn't score enough, and didn't keep the puck out of the Leaf net.

Allison definitely contributed on offense, but mostly on the power play where he would be a cog in the wheel, but rarely an important piece to the puzzle. He rarely gained the zone or retrieved the puck from the corners. He passed the puck around the outside and made the odd nifty pass or play. Wellwood can easily fill his role on the powerplay. Defensively, the cement skates and -18 make that argument. He was looking faster towards the end of his season, but for the most part he was a drag on team performance. If he was scoring twice as often as he was letting them go in, it would be a different story.

At 12:42 p.m., September 12, 2006, Anonymous Limey said...

I don't think you can blame their minus on a guy who played 33 games and another who played mostly on the power play. They're in big trouble.

At 1:12 p.m., September 12, 2006, Blogger Ryan Wolstat said...

I too think they'll struggle to score Stretch, but I think O'Neill will bounce back to 30 goals and I think Steen is going to be a good one. Thirty goals is certainly not out of the question for him, especially if he plays with Sundin.

Losing Allison is a big plus in my mind, but Lindros actually was very good when he was in the lineup, so they'll miss him. He carried them when Sundin was hurt.

At 3:34 p.m., September 12, 2006, Blogger ninja said...

After cooling my heels for a bit, I think you could be more right than I originally thought. The Leafs were atrocious at ES scoring, and with the amount of penalties anticipated to decline this season, this essential part of any team's game could very well be exposed as the weakness it was last year for the Leafs. Maurice will undoubtedly employ a sounder gameplan and have the team better conditioned which should help improve the Leafs at even strength, but who knows by how much.

At 10:26 a.m., September 13, 2006, Anonymous rob aquino said...

the Leafs may have something in Ponikarovsky - you look at his numbers last year and, as with most basic hockey stats, there's nothing too revealing. 21 goals.

19 of those goals were scored either at even-strength or short-handed, leading the team in each category. He trailed only Sundin in even-strength points with 29 (Sundin = 32).

(Nik Antropov was third with 26 ESP in only 57 games...)

At only 14:05 of ice-time per game (and shockingly only 0:50 *power-play* time per game), perhaps putting Alexei in a more offensively-minded role on a regular basis would increase those totals.

At 11:34 a.m., September 13, 2006, Blogger Hossim said...

From watching games for the last few years, one of the things that stood out was the Leafs penchant to make that extra-pass instead of taking a shot on net. Stats from last year reflect that, as the Leafs ranked 25th among teams in shots for (ahead of only Phoenix, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Columbus & Minnesota). Their leader, Mats Sundin, ranked 51st among players.

Paul Maurice's Hurricanes ranked 8th in shots for in 2001-2002, and 9th in 2002-2003.

Maybe with more shots will come more goals and a better record.


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