The bloom is off the rose for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Losers of six of their past seven, the offence has dried up; only five Leafs have scored more than one goal and two of them are Tim Brent and Colton Orr. After scoring 16 goals their first four games, the Buds have managed just seven during their slide, dropping to 29th overall, entering last night.
But let’s be frank Leafs Nation, in your heart of hearts you knew this was going to happen. You knew Clarke MacArthur wasn’t going to average a goal per game.
You knew Tyler Bozak wasn’t a No. 1 NHL centre.
You knew Kris Versteeg was a second- or third-line guy on most other teams in the league.
And even if you thought the power play would improve on last season’s last overall placing, you knew it wasn’t going to be that much better (it sat 24th heading into last night’s Ottawa tilt).
What Leafs fans need are realistic expectations.
Yes, there’s always hope. And, yes, when the season begins everyone is tied.
But even a .500 finish will be a demonstrative improvement over last season. However, don’t despair fans, this team is on the road to better things.
No. 2 netminder Jonas Gustavsson has looked good in his three starts.
The 26-year-old’s save percentage (.923) places him just outside the league’s top 10, as does his goals-against average (2.36).
The defence corps has been underwhelming offensively, but has helped the team to the league’s sixth-rated goals-against-per-game mark (2.30), entering last night’s action.
Third-year defender Luke Schenn, who turned 21 yesterday, has looked like the type of player the Leafs thought they were getting when they drafted him fifth overall in 2008.
And if just a few years ago someone told you the Toronto blue-line would feature Dion Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek, you’d have been very happy.
Goaltending and defence is how GM Brian Burke built the 2007 Cup winner in Anaheim, but it took a few years. Patience was the name of the game then, and should be in Toronto now.
Phil Kessel is the real deal, a legitimate 40-plus goal man. Nazem Kadri is learning the pro game with the Marlies and will be fine if not rushed.
Gustavsson and Schenn look like they’re going to be a decent nucleus. It’s just going to take a couple years to fill in around them.
Everyone knew the Leafs’ offence would be more pop gun than shock and awe.
Nothing unexpected is happening. So be patient.