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Another season ends prematurely for Leafs

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 10:31 AM / Season in Review

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Another season ends prematurely for Leafs
Another season ends prematurely for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

LEADING SCORER
RW Phil Kessel
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 45 | PTS: 82
SOG: 295 | +/-: -10
TOP GOALIE
G Jonas Gustavsson
RECORD: 17-17-4
GAA: 2.92 | SVP: 0.902
TOP ROOKIE
D Jake Gardiner
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 30
SOG: 79 | +/-: -2
TEAM MVP
Phil Kessel
SURPRISING STAT
The Maple Leafs were credited with 340 more hits at Air Canada Centre than away from home, which is the widest disparity in the League.
What happened?

They couldn't keep the puck out of their net. The Maple Leafs were 10th in the NHL with 229 goals scored, but only Tampa Bay prevented them from being the worst team at goal prevention. Goaltending was a scapegoat, but Toronto's expensive defense corps wasn't good enough, either. The Leafs led the Northeast Division into late November, which raised expectations. They also crashed at the end of the campaign, winning just seven times in the final 28 games.

How to fix it?

The search for a goaltender will dominate the headlines in Toronto this offseason, but the Maple Leafs also need to improve the defense corps (even though the Leafs spent more than $23 million on the position, and more than $26 million if Jeff Finger's contract is counted). A better goaltender, another year of development for Gardiner and better health for John-Michael Liles might be enough on defense, but they could probably use one more top-four guy.

Three reasons for hope:

1. The Maple Leafs were one of the youngest teams in the League. They were too young in goal, but there are plenty of forwards who can still improve.

2. There may be some prospect fatigue with guys Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne, but they can still become impact players. There are several quality prospects behind them, and inexpensive, young depth is something the Maple Leafs could use more of. Add in a top-five pick from the upcoming draft and there is a young core to build around if the city can show a little more patience.

3. Jake Gardiner had a great rookie season, and looks like he could be a No. 1 defenseman in the near future.

Quote of the Day

He seemed to thrive on his own and didn't really need any push from me. I certainly don't want to get in the way of the coaches. You see how that goes sometimes. I never really worried about it and just enjoyed the ride.

— David Ekblad on his son's [Aaron Ekblad] journey to the NHL, signing with the Florida Panthers