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NHL On TSN Quiz: Who is to blame for Leafs' struggles?

TSN.ca Staff

3/1/2012 12:39:07 AM

Each week, the NHL on TSN panel voices its opinions on the hot topics of the day in the Wednesday Night Hockey Quiz.

As a follow-up, TSN.ca offers you the opportunity to chime in on all the big issues with our insiders. Read up on all the questions and answers, and put in your own two cents on our popular Your Call feature.

Question: We know where blame has been assigned off the ice for the Leafs' fortunes this season, but where does it belong on the ice? One catch, goaltending is off the board.  Either:  The defence has regressed, the stars have fallen off or team play has broken down.
        
Bob McKenzie: Defence has regressed.  Whether it's Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek or even Jake Gardiner, there are times lately when you look at the Maple Leafs and, aside from the goaltending problems, they are still shooting themselves in the foot at crucial moments with bad defensive plays.

Marc Crawford: Team play has broken down.  When you think of the success they had throughout most of the season, it's because they have good team speed, depth of scoring and youthful enthusiasm.  Now they have lost that depth of scoring and I'm not seeing as much enthusiasm as in the past.        

Aaron Ward: Defence has regressed.  Too many systematic breakdowns on everyone's part and no one is immune.  You need only go back to Alex Burrows saying: "If you wait the Leafs out long enough, you'll get your chances."  His comment speaks to me saying there is a lack of execution in the system and that players are way too loose in their responsibilities in defensive zone coverage.

Question: Again, apart from goaltending, what's the Leafs' single most pressing need to become competitive in the long-term?
Do they need a power forward, mobile defenceman, playmaking centre or new coach?

Crawford: Mobile defenceman. You can never have enough, they've got John-Michael Liles, Gardiner and Phaneuf is pretty good.  If you get a defenceman that can move the puck, get up on the play and handle top power forwards with both speed and finesse, that's where the game is at right now.     

Ward: Power forward.  It's a component they don't have in their lineup right now.  They need a guy in the mold of a Jamie Benn that has a great skill-set but can also create room for guys that thrive in open space like Phil Kessel.  Also, that can create a sense of uneasiness for your opponents not feeling safe because you might go through them or around them.         

McKenzie: New coach.  I can't say all of the above which is what I think is the answer.  This is not a slam at Ron Wilson but the presumption is that they are going to miss the playoffs.  I'm not sure how he can come back with all that baggage of having missed the playoffs and start with a clean slate and feel like progress can be made.                   

Question: Should Rick Nash still be the Columbus Blue Jackets captain?

Ward: Yes.  But it should be his choice.  You couldn't have created a better ambassador for hockey in Columbus.  The best testimony is that his teammates still want to play for him.  Now it'll be interesting to see how he feels about being the Blue Jackets captain after management's PR bus backed up over him when trade deadline was explained.                            

McKenzie: No.  That's not on Rick Nash, that's on the Columbus Blue Jackets.  They were the ones that told the fans that he wanted out, so I don' t know how you can announce to the fans that Nash wants out and then say you're okay with him being your captain.                      

Crawford: Yes. I think he's handled the situation as well as can be expected. He has the support of his teammates and taking the captaincy away makes the situation even worse.