Toronto Maple Leafs: Why They Haven't Addressed Their Biggest Issues at Deadline

Steve Wolosewich@@stevewolosewichContributor IIIMarch 1, 2012

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 18: Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke speaks to the media during the afternoon session of the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp at the Mastercard Center on August 18, 2010 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Matthew Manor/Getty Images)
Matthew Manor/Getty Images

Yes, "torturous" may indeed be strong language to describe watching the progress of the 2012 NHL trade deadline as a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it also isn't that much of an exaggeration.

In light of the Maple Leafs' horrendous skid in the month of February, there is an almost tangible sense of hopelessness creeping into the Blue and White psyche—even after Brian Burke's "endorsement" of a team very much in need of wake-up call.

There is plenty of cynical loathing to come, for those of you who like that sort of thing, but first some housekeeping...


Rick Nash Sweepstakes

What happens when you oppose an unstoppable force with an immovable object?

Apparently nothing.

The unstoppable force and immovable object both happen to be Rick Nash, in this case.

For those of you who jumped the gun and ordered a No. 61 Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, Rick Nash is still on the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But you didn't buy into all the hype surrounding this one player did you? Were you really waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Sure, his name has become synonymous with skill and offensive prowess since he was drafted first overall in 2002—however, most recently it has only conjured up a tsunami of media hype.

Nash has been steeped in trade speculation over the last several weeks, so anything short of Leafs Nation's impossibly high expectations of Brian Burke to land said superstar would go down as an epic fail.

And speaking of steep—Nash's price tag.

Doug MacLean of Sportsnet's Hockeycentral panel speculated that in order for the Toronto Maple Leafs to acquire Nash from Columbus, the Leafs would have to be willing to part ways with the likes of Jake Gardiner, Nikolai Kulemin, a "MacArthur-type" player or Joe Colborne and a first-round draft pick.

Even that may not have been enough to land the Maple Leafs' GM his big fish.

When all is said and done, Burke didn't make what had the potential to be a crippling deal for the Maple Leafs, with severe long-term repercussions.

Moving on...


What Are the Leafs' Biggest Issues?

Like it or lump it, the Toronto Maple Leafs look terrible right now, and these misgivings couldn't come at a worse time. 

They have only one win in their last 11 games.

TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 28: Mikhail Grabovski #84 and Marco Sturm #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets tripped by Mike Santorelli #13 of the Florida Panthers during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 28, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Phot
Abelimages/Getty Images

Their forecheck is sloppy and impotent, players look confused and disorganized on the ice, the defense seems absent-minded, slow and is missing assignments, and the goaltending has been downright embarrassing.

What is painfully obvious is that this team is now devoid of any confidence they enjoyed at the start of the season.

Can we point a finger at the players themselves during these dark days?


But is there more to the story?

You betcha.


Mob Rule

To quote Henry David Thoreau, "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."

Frailty, thy name is Ron Wilson.

In his postgame interview after another lackluster performance against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 28, 2012, Wilson looked unnervingly passive, shell-shocked and without any of the bravado he exercised regularly in front of the media for the better part of his tenure as head coach.

WINNIPEG, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Head coach Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs questions one of his players from the bench as players David Steckel #20, Joey Crabb #46 and Matthew Lombardi #15 look on during a game against the Winnipeg Jets in NHL action
Marianne Helm/Getty Images

Whatever the sermon Wilson is delivering behind the bench, the players have simply tuned out.

Could there be dissension in the dressing room?

The morbid side of me almost hopes Leafs Nation doesn't get their way in having Wilson axed, just so we can once and for all settle how bad a coach Wilson has become in Toronto, via HBO's 24/7 series.

The real reason why the Maple Leafs haven't addressed their biggest issue at the deadline is because they just gave him a contract extension in December.

You thought that being under a magnifying glass in the center of the hockey universe was tough before?

With warmer weather just around the corner and to now see the Leafs suffering through their worst dry spell all season long, Wilson must be getting uncomfortably hot under the collar.

Unfortunately for this struggling group of players and their fans, flames are starting to lick off the wreckage that is quickly becoming their 2011-12 NHL season—and those flames are rapidly threatening to engulf the team's waning playoff hopes once again.


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