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Another season ends prematurely for Leafs

by Corey Masisak /


RW Phil Kessel
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 45 | PTS: 82
SOG: 295 | +/-: -10
G Jonas Gustavsson
RECORD: 17-17-4
GAA: 2.92 | SVP: 0.902
D Jake Gardiner
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 23 | PTS: 30
SOG: 79 | +/-: -2
Phil Kessel
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.

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