Inside of two weeks until Christmas, and the Leafs are pulseless. Time for a bit of a ramble here, so pour yourself a fresh cup, extra bile.
First, let's call the roll: Three losses in a row, and four in five games; just 21 goals scored in their past nine games; a power play down to a 9-for-66 conversion rate the past 10 nights.
Pat Quinn notes a "lack of urgency", at least in Ken Campbell's interpretation (over at the Sun, Lance Hornby drily notes the Leafs can't even use their customary excuses):
"I think our team has a feeling that they're a pretty good team and they can be, but we're not right now."
Not much to go on there. Sounds like every team I've ever heard of.
"We have to have a different mentality right now. We're not okay right now and we've got to work in different ways to get okay again."
A little warmer. Sounds like the coach figures his team -- and by definition, that means the key parts -- don't care, or aren't putting the work in. (An old coaching trick, which conveniently leaves the coach's role out of the process.)
Here's Allison, in the Sun, on the ailing power play:
"In Los Angeles (a few years ago), we did have the best power play in the league, but we had stretches just like this. I'm not saying we don't care about this stuff, but I also don't think it's panic-button time, either."
I wasn't able to watch all of Saturday's game, but I did note a moment when, instead of using McCabe and Kaberle as its focus, shifted down low to Allison set up as the hub behind the net. The Leafs got a good chance out of it. They oughta try it some more. Everybody has adjusted to McCabe, playing a longer box. And Allison, over the last month, has been the club's most consistent and productive forward not named Darcy Tucker.
There remains the five-on-five troubles, where the Leafs have stacked up quite poorly in the league's pecking order all season long -- they're 18th in the league in 5-on-5 production this morning.
Among the backsliders of late:
Jeff O'Neill has gone missing -- Pointless with just four shots on goal in hsi last five games.
Mats Sundin's goal on Saturday ended a five-game drought. (Don Cherry puts this down to wearing the visor, of course.)
Kyle Wellwood has one point in his last eight games, and has gone 12 games without a goal. (Note to Don: Wellwood doesn't wear a visor). Kid needs more ice time and a clearly defined role.
Eric Lindros has one goal in his last 10 games. (No visor. Hmmm.).
These are all problems in the one area they were supposed to have covered: generating offence (and not wearing visors, perhaps).
Against Dallas's tight checking, the Leafs had no answers -- even that one goal that got fans talking, Lindros and Sundin playing together, doesn't have Quinn planning a permanent union of the two on a line, although he is starting to talk about his plan to separate Lindros, Sundin and Allison in the past tense, so stay tuned:
"I did like the idea of three big guys in the middle. I felt that both in our zone and the offensive zone, in the way the rules were going to be called, we could have some real success in both ends with strength up the middle. I didn't want to mix that up. But maybe there is something there."
Tonight Anaheim comes in, then they have a whole week leading up to Saturday before they play again -- plenty of time to hear and read about how horrible they are, and push the panic button in earnest (over at Budblog, it's already started).
A little while back, regular poster Denial said the Leafs were if anything overachieving in the first six weeks or so of the schedule. It sure looks that way to me. Mind you, this is right where most of us figured they'd be -- just barely hanging on to a playoff spot -- so at least in the big picture, none of it should come as any surprise.
A couple of other links:
With Alex Khavanov doubtful, the Leafs defence will look different tonight against the Ducks (brace yourself, but Wade Belak practised as a D-man yesterday).
Fresh off his one-year blogiversary, James Mirtle takes a look at what the Olympic roster(s) would look like if they were based on current form.