Trouble in Toronto

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a tailspin, losing eight of their last nine games and falling to 10th in the eastern conference.

James Reimer

The Leafs were headed in the right direction until their recent losing streak put them four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.  At the beginning of the year I posted my playoff predictions on my blog and placed Toronto in ninth, missing the playoffs yet again.  If the Leafs are to prove me wrong they will need to do it as a team and that starts at the top with management.

“It’s very hard to watch what happened and not wonder if we have enough (in goal),” Leafs’ GM Brian Burke said after an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils. “I have no answer for that. There were three goals that went in that have to stay out. Yes, he made some stellar saves around those goals, but the winning goal was going wide. I am not sure we are not going to be in the goaltending market before we are done.”

This is no way for the General Manager of “Canada’s Team” to act, and Burke of all people should know better.  In a market like Toronto, Brian Burke cannot criticize his goaltenders publicly without starting an uncontrollable fan response.  Already the crowds at the Air Canada Centre have shifted their hatred towards Coach Ron Wilson.  Burke probably didn’t see this coming, but that’s what happens when you start a commotion in a circus like Toronto.

Colton Orr

That is not to absolve Wilson of any fault.  Too often has Toronto’s coach blamed his players for the team’s struggles.  He sends a poor message about accountability when he refuses to take at least some responsibility for his team’s problems.

If you ask me, the Leafs will miss the playoffs if they don’t get some heart and soul players back into their lineup. Colby Armstrong has been in and out with injuries and Colton Orr is toiling in the American League with the Marlies. The Leafs need a shot of adrenaline and Orr is the syringe.

The Buds are on the road tonight against the Blackhawks, a perfect place to start a turnaround.  With no pressure from upset fans, the Leafs must use this game as an opportunity to get on a role before heading back to Canada to play against Montreal on Saturday night.

Montreal Falling

The Montreal Canadiens have long been regarded as one of the NHL’s classiest organizations, but the team is quickly losing respect around the league.

The Canadiens finished admirably last season, losing a close seven-game-overtime series to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.  The team had some glaring issues heading into the 2011-2012 season, but failed to address many of them.

Eric Cole was acquired via free agency to add some size and scoring up front.  Defenseman Chris Campoli was signed to a one year contract, to fill a void on defense left by the injured Andrei MarkovGeneral Manager Pierre Gauthier stopped there and failed to fully address the team’s defensive problems.

Perry Pearn

Not surprisingly, the Canadiens started the season poorly, posting a 1-5-2 record through Oct. 24.  In an effort to help satisfy Montreal’s fans’ concern, Gauthier dismissed assistant Coach Perry Pearn mere hours prior to a game on Oct. 26.  Pearn is a respected member of the hockey community and the firing sparked widespread criticism.

The team seemed to respond to the firing, winning four straight games, but quickly faded back into mediocrity.  By Dec. 17 the continued public outcry for change in Montreal caused Gauthier to sacrifice another innocent, firing head coach Jacques Martin just before a home game against the Devils.  Martin was in his third season with the Habs and earned a 96-75-25 record in 196 regular season games with the team.

The firing was not very surprising, but many in the media posed the question: should it have been Martin or Gauthier getting the axe?

Pierre Gauthier

Gauthier immediately named assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth interim-head coach.  The firing occurred directly before the game, making it impossible for Cunneyworth to address the media.  This may seem like a non-issue, but the fact that Cunneyworth became the first only-English-speaking coach in Montreal since 1971 is still a major problem in Quebec.  Had Cunneyworth been able to address the situation, he could have explained that he did indeed plan to learn French, as Marc Crawford had done when he coached the Nordiques.

Jacques Martin

Following a loss to the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 10, forward Mike Cammalleri was reported to have said that the team loses because they “play like losers.”  Cammalleri said later that the quote was taken out of context and that what he meant was that the team needed an attitude adjustment if they planned on picking themselves up.

Gauthier decided to ignore one of the team’s most important leaders’ concerns and instead adjusted Cammalleri’s residence by trading him to Calgary, during a game against the Boston Bruins.  Montreal still remains last in wins in the Northeast Division since the trade.

Since Gauthier’s hiring, Montreal has quickly dug themselves into a massive hole, but not all of the blame can be placed at the GM’s feet.  There are a number of major issues facing the organization, young–gun P.K. Subban’s antics playing no small part.  Montreal will not make the playoffs this year, and by then it will be ownership’s turn to deal with the fallout.