The Toronto Maple Leafs are tied for 5th in the entire NHL in points, sporting a 20-11-1 record. They're 6-3-1 in their last 10 and have won several games without their best player in Auston Matthews in the lineup.
So what would give James Mirtle of The Athletic the belief that there are some major concerns behind the scenes in Toronto about their performance this season?
"I've said this for awhile now, but I think Babcock is more concerned than he is letting on in his brief scrums," Mirtle writes. "That trip through California in early November was ugly as hell, and Auston Matthews — the engine that drives this team — has been playing hurt now for a long time."
Two nuggets of information there - Babcock's cool and folksy demeanour is hiding his real concerns over the team, and Matthews has missed games due to injury, but appears to have been playing games operating at below 100%.
The concerns behind the play of the team have to do largely with the sheer amount of shots the team is conceding night after night, often relying on brilliant performances from Freddie Andersen between the pipes.
What happens when Andersen hits a slump, or the heavy workload Babcock has placed on his shoulders begins to weigh down on him?
Mirtle points out that Babcock is relying on his gritty character players such as Leo Komarov more and more, as well as demanding his skilled players to play more conservatively (read: more safely) - sucking the team dry of its creativity and speed. Mirtle then points to the increasing rate of dump-ins and dump-outs rather than relying on the puck-moving abilities of the Marners, Nylanders, and Matthews' of the team.
The team's identity at the beginning of the season was skill and speed. That hasn't been so much the case as of late, but they've gotten away with it by winning games.
It'll be interesting if they can keep this up throughout the year.
What do you think - should they return to their beginning of the season identity of "run and gun" offense?