It's hard to say exactly what needs to be changed, but the offense on this team has been completely stripped. By the time the team is able to break out of their zone, the puck carrier's linemates are usually going for a change, leaving him to either dump it in or go 1-on-3. If, by some miracle, they do actually setup in the offensive zone, they play a soft perimeter game that, more often than not, results in a turnover or softly directed puck at the net. This has gotten progressively worse as the season has gone on.
Defensively, it's just a gong show. Teams can dump the puck in, change lines and still hem the Leafs in their own zone. I'd have to think it's a coaching issue...perhaps Carlyle's strategies are flawed...and yet, I can't help but notice the complete apathy across the team and lack of anything resembling grit, hustle, emotion. Why are Kessel and JVR suddenly invisible on a regular basis? It's hard to pinpoint the exact reasons, but it's hard to watch as a fan.
Solution? Kulemin, Raymond, Bolland, and McClement are all pending UFAs. Franson and Reimer are both pending RFAs that have questionable futures in Toronto. Get value for at least some of these guys. Those bottom 6 players are the types of players that SHOULD be replaceable from within. Unfortunately, previous poor management of picks has led to a thinner prospect pool then we should have coming out of a "rebuild"
2) More focus on building a "team".
Solution: We're loaded with offensive dmen, projected 3rd line prospects, and expensive wingers. Be willing to move a major piece from some of those groups to substantially upgrade team needs (two-way top 6 Centre, two-way or defensive top 4 dman). Lupul, Gardiner, etc. Good pieces, but guys I would be willing to move for the right return.
If we could get an additional few picks for this upcoming draft, a young projected top 6 C and/or a top 4 D, and cut capspace, at the expense of moving (for example) Kulemin, Raymond, Reimer, Bolland, and Lupul? I'd be all over that.
Leivo, Ashton, D'Amigo, etc are guys that can fill in those bottom 6 spots at much cheaper caphits, Bozak should be playing a 3rd line checking role, not a top 6 role, so having him and Bolland is a little redundant, and moving Lupul is simply a matter of distributing talent/cap around the roster.
Unfortunately Clarkson pretty much can't be moved, JVR is the best value, and Kessel is our highest skilled player, making Lupul the oddman out if you're looking to redistribute from the wing and still get decent value back.
This team sucks at puck possession because we're weak down the middle and have too many risk-taking blueliners. But we have guys with trade value and COULD fix this if we wanted to. Doesn't need a whole blow up, just a bit better longterm outlook IMO.
I agree with this except for Bolland.
With him coming off a significant injury I don't think he'd get nearly the value we normally would or that is he actually worth.
With us also being so weak down the middle and lacking leadership I'd like to see Bolland extended and brought back as a key part of our leadership group and to give us depth down the middle.
Having Bolland could potentially allow us to deal him later or one of Bozak, Kadri or Holland (if he emerges) as a key piece in a package if we ever needed to down the road.