We’re four games into the season. The Leafs are 3-1-0, but hey, let’s panic about something and thing worth panicking about is probably defense. The Leafs averaged 4 goals against so far and as much fun as it is to put that all on the goaltender, we’ll spread it around a little here because the Leafs have also given up 31 shots per game (7th lowest in the league, but hey, it’s still a lot). The Leafs defense has also taken 13 minor penalties in the past four games, which points to them being behind the play (or struggling with the slashing calls like everyone else).
The question we are putting forward to our panel of #experts is “what should the Leafs do to upgrade their defence?”
Scott 2 Hottie
I think it’s a bit early to drastically change the defense. So far, each game had its own pattern in terms of how they allowed goals. In Winnipeg, they didn’t really care with the 6-0 lead. Against New York, it was being a man down and losing the battles in front. Against Chicago, it was lucky bounces. Against New Jersey, it was massive brain farts.
I think after a game like that, Babcock will probably give them hell, and work with them on it. Will it work? Who knows, it didn’t really last season. But, maybe it will wake up the team and remind them that they can’t always outscore their problems, and they can tighten down.
Ultimately, I’d like to see the team solve the issues internally before they look to giving up assets to solve it.
To add to my answer, I think they should try to add to their overall defence by trading for a better two-way center than Bozak and filling that line out a bit better. Maybe it’ll take until the trade deadline, but if the Sharks fall off the pace in the west, Jumbo Joe is the natural target.
That line is going to be a liability defensively until they address it. Maybe they want to live and die by that, which is fine, but they’re going to stay run-and-gun if that’s the case.
It’s too early for the Leafs to make dramatic changes to their blueline. At this point, the team has a wealth of young defenders — Connor Carrick, Andreas Borgman, and Calle Rosen — and they need to see what they have in them. Even if it costs the team a game or two early on, they need to see who can handle what role, both for down the stretch this season and long-term. Come the New Year, if these young defencemen can’t carry the load, you can improve the blueline with a rental. Or, if they really want to go all in, they could send the L.A. Kings a phone call and ask about Drew Doughty. Regardless, now isn’t the time for roster changes. Just work with what you have and give the player a chance to work through it.
One of my many biases is that it takes even a good defenseman a while to get caught up a system that they aren’t used to playing in, and bringing in someone new in season is committing to that player not looking great for a couple of months. That’s also were I’m comfortable giving Borgman and Hainsey a bit of a pass, though not much of one is really required as they’ve been fine (except when Rosen has boat anchored Borgman.) The Leafs defense is probably better with fewer changes and bringing Carrick back in for Rosen fixes a lot of issues. Sending Rosen down and recalling Marincin puts a much better safety net in the press box as well, and gives Rosen a bit of a chance to see if he can develop into a future Leaf.
I’d like to another right shooting option, but given the small supply counting on this happening in a desired time frame seems unlikely. Essentially standing pat and giving the pairings time to get used to each other seems like the best course of action. Just be an offensive team with defensive question marks. It’s more fun. Also stop letting Roman Polak workout with the team. Keeping him around only scares people into believing he might be an option.