Locked on Leafs: Spectacular Failure
On Wednesday, October 12, 2022, the Leafs had their first loss of the season in their opening game. With just 17 seconds to go in the third period, mere minutes after William Nylander tied the game, defenseman Jake Muzzin had a horrible turnover—he passed the puck to Josh Anderson of the Montréal Canadiens and accidentally helped the rival team score a winning goal.
Though the Leafs defeated the Washington Capitals and the Ottawa Senators in their next two games, some fans were quick to point out that the team’s defense and top players are not playing up to standard.
In particular, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Michael Bunting have yet to hit their full potential as their performance against the Arizona Coyotes shows.
It is projected that the Arizona Coyotes will have one of the worst seasons in National Hockey League (NHL) history. The team consists of no star players and hardly any talent. Any team, especially on home ice, would be able to easily outplay Arizona for the win—any team except for the Leafs.
Every fan saw this loss coming. In the 24 hours leading up to the game, the Leafs’ Twitter page listed subpar teams like the Buffalo Sabres, the Montréal Canadiens, and the Ottawa Senators that they have consistently lost against.
The Leafs continue to take drubbings this season. The team lost to Arizona 4-2 and was booed off the ice after the second period. Head coach Sheldon Keefe called out his star players, saying that the difference between the two teams is that Toronto has elite players and these elite players did not show up.
Matthews, Marner, and Bunting must play better if they want their team to win. They have only scored three times in four games so far—unacceptable for a trio that was considered one of the best lines in hockey during the prior season.
Another cause for concern regarding the team’s ability to win games is the health status of Muzzin. The defenceman has not played his best this season due to the residual impact of past injuries.
Marner has stated that “for him it’s making sure that, if [Muzzin] does come back and play this year, […] he’s going to be able to do whatever he wants to do, […] and enjoy time with his family [and] his kids.”
Normally, when a teammate speaks about another player’s health, it has to do with the severity of the situation. The fact that Marner mentioned Muzzin’s family speaks to the seriousness of his injury.
As insensitive as it might be to think about how Muzzin’s injury affects the Leafs, his ailment does in fact present new issues for the team. Few Leafs players possess Muzzin’s athletic qualities. His size, tenacity, and physicality are difficult to match. For now, Rasmus Sandin has been promoted to replace Muzzin in the second defence pairing with Justin Holl. Sandin is a young player with lots of potential. Now is the time for him to prove his worth to the team and its fanbase.
Moving forward, the Leafs would do well to get more of their top players on the ice, develop their defensive strategy, and play on the weaknesses of teams like the Arizona Coyotes for a better chance of making the playoffs.
Locked on Leafs Columnist (Volume 48 & 49) — Omar is in his fourth year at UTM, working towards completing a major in CCIT and double minors in Political Science and Anthropology. Omar loves to keep up with various sports teams, his favourite being the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he isn’t stressing over exams or the Leafs you can find him watching movies, looking at shoes he can only hope to afford, and trying his best to avoid parking tickets on campus.