Tim Leiweke, in a strong managerial move, elected to help the Toronto Maple Leafs by not firing Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle with two games left in the season. This move, of course, drastically increased the likelihood that Toronto would improve their draft pick with a loss against the Florida Panthers. Lo and behold, his bold decision making and strong leadership-by-example held true, and the Leafs' mantra of "confidence over competence" rang true for another night. Suffer through this game in six (it looks like 34 others this year):
Randy and Dave did not disappoint, as they elected to play a 30 year old in his first NHL start over a career .914 goaltender who ranks 27th in even strength save percentage among goalies with at least 25 starts this season. Randy also decided to go back to his Tried and Terrible 7-d, 9-F strategy, as Smith and Orr - who may have actually contributed to the screen on a Paul Ranger goal - saw under 14 minutes combined, and Kessel, Bozak, JVR, and Mason Raymond shouldered the load.
The Leafs stuck to their defensive zone plan on the first goal - form a safe box around an opposing center while making sure not to get in his way of receiving a pass and laying a shot. Ranger got worked behind the net on the third goal against, and Franson gifted the puck while holding the line on the power play, as we've seen the Leafs do a million times before because the strong side constantly overpinches in every situation, which I'm sure is just some crazy coincidence and not a coaching issue.
Jake Gardiner (who dropped his man on the second goal) used his smooth skating and passing skills to set up two points, both below the top of the circles and both with nice centering passes. I sure hope Nonis and Carlyle don't have him traded, as speculated. Maybe we can sponsor his hockey-reference page to make "Minnetonka, Minnesota" look like "Mimico, Minnesota." Unless next year's plan is to miss the playoffs, too, that is.
Really strong job by Maple Leafs management to throw away this game. Ottawa and Nashville won, dropping the Leafs to 9th with the opportunity to be passed by Winnipeg and Vancouver. Anyone with the long-view for this franchise should hope Nonis and Carlyle remain in their seats through Saturday night's closing game, for sure. I haven't figured out whether or not this was part of a season-long ploy to improve the Leafs' odds of a strong draft pick, but it sure would make a lot of sense - of course, I'm not totally sure this management team even knows how to lose in today's NHL, but they sure as fuck don't know how to win. Tank Leafs, tank.