It's right to question Jack Campbell's viability as a starter, but to pretend as though the Maple Leafs have no other issues is foolish.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: The two takeaways for me with the Leafs is just-- I mean, Jack Campbell does not look like himself. But at the same time, a lot of those goals he allowed, the defense was not-- a lot of deflections getting in front of them. They need to find a way to shut that down ahead of the postseason.
I have concerns with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I think earlier in the year, when everyone was saying they were looking a little bit more like contenders-- I know CJ said that on our show. But now, I have questions about this team.
I don't know if they're going to be good. I don't think they're good enough to beat Tampa. I don't think they're good enough to beat Florida. I don't know how they're going to look up against a Boston.
I think this team, if they don't address their defense, if they don't figure out something to do with goaltending, whether it's just taking Jack Campbell aside and having him sit with somebody and just talk through some things-- he's a guy who, as long as he's been a Leaf, as far as I've seen, he looks like he takes losses and certain struggles very personally and takes them really hard.
I think he needs to find a way to just kind of take a step back and just kind of find a way to love the game again and just compose himself a little bit, because he can be a good goaltender. We've seen it. But he has not looked himself. He kind of has the yips right now.
Peter Mrazek is not the best backup option for him right now. The Leafs need to figure that out on defense and with goaltending. That, for me--
And I get it. It's the regular season. They're probably not going to beat the Canucks in the postseason. These games don't necessarily matter as much. They're going to be a playoff team. But there's some elements in that game on Saturday that, if I were a Leafs fan, I guess I'm already concerned about the Leafs. But also at the same time, there were some things that would give me pause about this team being legit in the playoffs.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, there's a real chicken or the egg thing happening among the Leafs fanbase, certainly playing out in my mentions. I tweeted last night about the state of the defense corps. And I'm shocked at how many people want to do to Jack Campbell, after all this goodwill he built up over the last two years-- they want to do to Jack Campbell what they did to Freddy Anderson, which was to vilify him and be blind to everything else that is a problem with the Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs' forwards, best they've ever put out on the ice, maybe. Certainly in the Kyle Dubas era, maybe in my lifetime, unbelievable how strong this group is. Yeah, John Tavares has not been playing particularly well. William Nylander's struggling a bit. Jason Spezza's not doing what he did at the start of the year. But on paper, and with Auston Matthews leading the charge, best we've ever seen.
The defense corps though, is horrific. I counted two, maybe three defensemen that could play on a legitimate postseason roster in that game for the Maple Leafs. They had Timothy Liljegren playing top pairing minutes. He's a seventh defenseman at best. Justin Hall, struggling with anyone who isn't TJ Brodie so far. And he's playing with him right now. And it's kind of falling apart a little bit.
He had a couple of good games, but it doesn't look that great. He needs someone to play with. Is he a legitimate defenseman if he needs someone to play with in order to be effective? Probably not. He's a six at best.
Travis Dermott has had ample opportunity to prove himself as a fifth or sixth defenseman, hasn't been able to do it. Ilya lieberstein has played pretty well. I'll give him that, maybe three. But right now, they don't have the horses back there.
And it has been an issue all year. But it wasn't something that was so glaring and so problematic at the start of the year because Jack Campbell was at a 0.940 save percentage. And now that he's not, and he can't stop the deflected pucks because they're not hard enough on forwards in the defensive zone, you're seeing those problems.
They've had this issue the entire season. They need to address their defensive corps. And then they can only hope that their goaltending returns to what it was or close to what it was. But to just suggest this is all on Jack Campbell and Peter Mrazek is crazy.
Thatcher Demko, yeah, he'll give you a better minutes. But you cannot expect, with the defense corps that they have-- you need Thatcher Demko or better in order to compete. And they had Thatcher Demko or better at the start of the year with how well Jack Campbell was playing. He's not playing that well anymore.
And those defensive issues are now being laid bare. They need to get one, like an impact guy, or two pretty sizable impact guys if they're going to hang with a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning. And I had people telling me, oh, if you look at Tampa's defense, they've got some average guys. No, they don't.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: No.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: No, they don't.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: What?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: They've got four studs. And John Ruta plays on the top line. And he's the Ron Hainsey. If you had Justin Hall at his best just complementing another guy, that's what John Ruta-- he's an elite complementary guy. He's a middle of the pack guy, but he makes Victor Hedman, or helps make Victor Hedman, be Victor Hedman.
They are deep. Any team that is legitimate, that we believe can win a Stanley Cup is deep in their defensive corps. They have five, six, seven, eight guys that you can bank on. And the Leafs have two, three, maybe four. And with Jake Muzzin losing it, Jake Muzzin finding or losing himself, that was the guy you were counting on. If he's not there, then you have even less. It's pretty clear what the Leafs have got to do. They've got two weeks to do it.