Maple Leafs seek 'better brand of defence' | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMaple Leafs seek 'better brand of defence'

Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 | 02:45 PM

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Toronto is enjoying an 8-1-1 run, but defenceman Jake Gardiner, right, and the rest of the team's skaters are still forcing their goalies to face a lot of rubber. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images) Toronto is enjoying an 8-1-1 run, but defenceman Jake Gardiner, right, and the rest of the team's skaters are still forcing their goalies to face a lot of rubber. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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Despite five straight wins at home and an 8-1-1 run in their last 10 games, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is not planning the parade route. Not even close.
It's all smiles and sunshine around the Toronto Maple Leafs these days.

In a compacted season full of ups and downs, it only makes sense to enjoy a hot streak when you have the opportunity, and that is exactly what the Maple Leafs are doing.

But despite five straight wins at home and an 8-1-1 run in their last 10 games, coach Randy Carlyle is not planning the parade route. Not even close. In fact, he has a little fatherly advice for his young club.

"Don't get too high, don't get too comfortable, because there is sufficient evidence that there is still room for improvement," Carlyle said Friday. "Enjoy the day today and just focus on preparing yourself mentally and refreshing the mind, body and soul for tomorrow night."

Carlyle's Maple Leafs still have plenty of concerns heading into Saturday night's home game against Ottawa (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET). Much like the start of the season, when they opened with 10 wins in 14 games, the Leafs are still weak in the defensive zone, they routinely get out-shot, and their penalty-killing is lousy.

These are not traits that carry teams deep into the playoffs -- assuming they make the playoffs.

"We want to continue to play that up-tempo game and skate and be aggressive," Carlyle said. "Those are the ingredients that have allowed our hockey club to have success over the last little while.

"We're going to enjoy the offence that comes our way, but on any given night a good defence can shut down a good offence. We want to make sure we are providing a better brand of defence and build on our offence. The less time we can spend in our own zone the better chance we have of doing that."

Go west, young man

The Maple Leafs traded seldom-used defenceman Mark Fraser to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday for two prospects: forwards Cameron Abney and Teemu Hartikainen.

Fraser, 27, is a rugged defender who suffered a cracked skull when he blocked a shot in the playoffs last season and was having trouble getting into the lineup this year. He was a healthy scratch in 19 of Toronto's past 20 games.

"He is a blood-and-guts type of guy," Carlyle said. "He has put the time and effort in and Edmonton is getting a guy who is ready to play. Mark Fraser is not a flashy guy, as we all know. Now he's getting an opportunity to take that kind of character to a new hockey club, playing for a coach [Dallas Eakins] he has played for and who has trust in him."

Fellow defender Cody Franson said Fraser will be missed by his teammates.

"First and foremost, he's a good friend of mine, [but] that is part of the business," Franson said. "You hate to see a good teammate go. Hopefully this is in his best interest and he'll get a chance to play there."

Added defenceman Carl Gunnarsson: "It was the same thing as John Liles a couple of weeks ago. He wasn't playing much here. You love having those guys in the room, but they want to play. To be on the outside for almost a whole year wears on you."

Bolland update

Centre David Bolland skated with the team Friday and said there is a 50/50 chance he'll suit up for a game before the Olympic break.

Bolland said he is getting cabin fever and is looking forward to traveling with the team.

"It will be fun to get back on the road, get back with the fellas, go on the road to Florida and get on the beach," Bolland said with a laugh, adding he wants to be sure he is 100 per cent healthy before playing in a game.

"I'm not going to get back into it if I'm not ready and not ready to help the team," he said. "I don't want to get out there and take a minus and be a liability out there."
Weird stat of the day

The Maple Leafs have won eight of 10 games in which one of their players blocked five or more shots.

Gunnarsson said, well, that doesn't mean much.

"It doesn't have to be five blocks," Gunnarsson said. "Some blocks you notice more than others, like if you get one of those diving ones where you are out of the play and come back in and take that shot...It doesn't have to be five from one guy. It is just a coincidence I'd say."

Never mind.

Sharing the wealth

Suddenly the Maple Leafs are getting lots of secondary scoring. Coach Carlyle said that is entirely necessary to be successful in the NHL.

"Every team needs more than one group to score and we're no different," Carlyle said. "It just gives us the ability and a little bit more confidence that when we're in a situation where we need a goal, there are more than three or four players who can provide it."

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