The 2012-2013 season was carried by goaltending, so it stands to reason that the 2013-2014 season was… well, not. Regression caught up to James Reimer (in other words, he was no longer able to staunch the flow of shots bleeding through Toronto’s blue line) and although Jonathan Bernier was a superhuman, he’s a breakable superhuman.
This year was kind of sad. That’s about all I’ll say.
|38||36||8||84||6th in the Atlantic||231||256|
- Within five days of acquiring Dave Bolland from the Chicago Blackhawks, Dave Nonis inked centre Tyler Bozak to a five year, $21M deal – worth the money if he was a versatile top line centre or a young star looking to improve, neither of which describe Bozak.
- On that same day, Nonis inked free agent David Clarkson. For seven years. For $36.75M. I. Just. I can’t.
- Before the season was even halfway over, Nonis would have inked two more monster deals – Phil Kessel at 8 x $8M AAV, and Dion Phaneuf at 7 x $7M AAV. By the time Phaneuf inked his deal, Grabovski had eleven goals for the Washington Capitals (this was three more than Clarkson would score in the entire season) – and the fans were growing sick of Clarkson, upset with the Bozak situation, and angry that John-Michael Liles was all but finished with the club after being brought in as yet another too-often-injured player (he would be dealt for Tim Gleason just a few days later).
- Connor Brown inked his entry-level deal, which was smart on Toronto’s part – as one of their highest-ceilinged prospects now, it’s good that they got him locked up. Signing for Trevor Smith was also a good call, and Carter Verhaeghe – who also inked his entry-level deal that spring – should be a promising player down the line. Watching Clarke MacArthur walk in free agency, though, was less than fun.
- Mason Raymond was signed to a one year deal, which was amazing and I’m happy for him (but it’s even sadder to think of that cheap, efficient forward skating back to Calgary anyway).
Like the 2012-2013 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs did well enough to see post-season action over their first portion of the season.
Going 10-4-0 in October and amassing 64 points before February, the Leafs managed to win games on a bed of PDO-driven scoring and impressive goaltending from the newly acquired Bernier. Morgan Rielly had joined the team, and Phil Kessel continued to be offensively dominant – but a mixture of injury and managerial incompetency left the Leafs crashing down out of playoff contention in the final game stretch.
It was nice to watch the Leafs win the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, but ultimately, there was little about the 2013-2014 season that could be described as anything more than frustrating.
The hardest part about watching this year wasn’t just the play (although that definitely had something to do with it). The Leafs were both being coached away from good play and managed out of respectability through trades and idiot signings, and a quick glance back at the efficacy of Dave Bolland when he was and wasn’t injured shows that the team who waived Tim Connolly right out of Toronto – and praised ‘intangible leadership’ for an injured-reserve Dave Bolland – was being run by a group of possibly blindfolded morons. Managerial incompetence resulted in poor line combinations, the wrong players being brought on and kept around, and overall the team was placed in a position where it wasn’t when their luck would run dry, it was how quickly – and how much it would hurt.
The lucky streak of the team early on may have made this season hurt about as much as the last, but Dave Nonis’ summer of ‘what the hell are you even doing to this roster’ kind of put a damper on anything involving the team looking good or feeling happy. Add in some late-season snark from Randy Carlyle, directed at a James Reimer who was losing games behind an awful possession team with bad shooting numbers, and the only positive of the season was the quick dismantling of Nonis’ empire just in time to give him a ‘don’t eff this up’ extension and watch him burn the world down.
Things will get better from here, I promise.
Team Scoring Leaders
|PPG||James Van Riemsdyk||9|
Re-thinking the 2013-2014 Team
We’ve now gotten so close to the team as they are today that it’s hard to truly evaluate what could have been done differently, as we really only have speculation and the tire fire of 2014-2015 to go off of.
The few things that can be re-thought and asserted? Randy Carlyle’s ‘prove it’ extension at the end of the year was a godawful mistake, as was David Clarkson. Clarkson was supposed to help the team get better by bringing in this guy who had elevated his play above expectations and was looking to be the next big thing, but the team’s on-ice product was so close to collapsing that here was little Clarkson could have done to succeed with the Leafs. That was both bad player assessment by Nonis and the byproduct of fans getting impatient with years of missed playoffs and team mismanagement – there’s not much about that that looks good.
In retrospect, a closer look by the team at what was ailing them – in essence, a complete lack of defensive awareness and an oft-injured, non-elite goaltender having to play above his expected talent ceiling to compensate – could have maybe started the rebuild a few months early, but Brendan Shanahan did the best he could.
I don’t know. I can’t talk about this anymore.