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Your Call: What's the problem with the Toronto Maple Leafs?

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TSN.ca Staff
1/10/2014 1:53:34 PM
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Things started off quite well for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but their January slide has pushed them out of playoff position.

So what's exactly wrong with the Blue and White these days?

The team opened 2014 on a high, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout in front of more than 105,000 fans at Michigan Stadium for the NHL's Winter Classic.

Since the outdoor win, the Leafs have dropped three straight games and have been outscored 18-5 in those contests. On top of that, the club has just five regulation/overtime victories over their last 31 games and a 4-13 record in the 17 games that ended in regulation. By comparison, the Leafs had 13 regulation/overtime wins in their final 31 games under Ron Wilson.

Going into Friday night's game against Washington, they've gone 2-7-4 in their last 13 road games, are 4-for-43 on the power play and their last road regulation win was Oct. 30 in Calgary.

Is it the coaching? Many fans have called for the firing of head coach Randy Carlyle.

In his lone full season with the Leafs, he led the team to their first playoff appearance since 2004. But is it possible that his good will with the players has taken a turn south?

Many observers have blamed Carlyle for the Leafs' defensive system, which has allowed a league-high 36.4 shots on goal per game and league-worst minus-9.2 shot differential.

Others argue that the shot totals have been high all year and are nothing new for the Leafs.

Their goaltending struggles, however, certainly are. Is the problem in goal?

The Leafs relied on the strong play of James Reimer and more specifically Jonathan Bernier to get wins this season, but both have struggled of late. Bernier played 29 games with the Leafs this season before getting pulled for the first time on Saturday in a 7-1 loss against the New York Rangers. He allowed five goals on 32 shots in just under two periods of play.

And Bernier struggled again the next time out against the New York Islanders, allowing four goals on 24 shots, three of them that Carlyle said Bernier wanted back. The Leafs lost again, 5-3.

The team turned back to Reimer on Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, but he allowed six goals on 36 shots and the team lost its third straight game, 6-1. As TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger noted on TSN Radio 1050 on Friday morning, the Leafs, "played 60 minutes like they were killing a 5-on-3."

At the same time, Toronto's offence hasn't been anywhere near good enough to make up for the defensive shortfall. The Leafs' top two scorers, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, have just one point between them over the last three games.

The losing skid could be attributed to many things, but is it as simple as a Winter Classic hangover?

The Leafs played most of December under the watchful eyes of television cameras documenting their lives, on and off the ice, for HBO's 24/7 Winter Classic series. When they won the game and shook their opponent's hands at centre ice, the camera crews packed up and life was supposed to return to normal.

But since then victories have been hard to come by.

And now the Leafs find themselves on the outside looking in for a playoff spot with just under half the season remaining and Olympic break four weeks away.

The time has come to ask, what's wrong with the Toronto Maple Leafs?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Leafs bench (Photo: Steve Russell/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Steve Russell/Getty Images)
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