As a group, it’s easy enough to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a big, fat ‘F’ to end the year.
They failed, in the standings and to improve over last season, finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference and 26th overall in the franchise’s seventh straight playoff miss.
So they deserve it, no questions asked.
But with another ugly season in the books, here’s a closer look at which players lived up to expectations and which ones didn’t come close.
Keep in mind that “expectations” were not exactly sky high for this group to begin with and this team finished 10th in NHL scoring despite a horrific finish to their year.
Goaltending and defensive play are mainly what did them in.
(Players are sorted in order of significance and graded based on expectations, their role on the team and salary. Minimum 25 games played. And a C+ is considered average.)
Phil Kessel: A-. Finished tied for sixth in goals scored and sixth in points in the NHL, putting up career highs despite skating without a top centre yet again. The downside? He had only two goals and went minus-14 in 10 games against the Bruins and Flyers, showing a tendency to wilt against the toughest opponents.
Joffrey Lupul: A. Another player with a career year, Lupul surprised everyone with a point-a-game season that came to an end only when he injured his shoulder. Still not a great defensive player, he delivered well above expectations -- and took centre stage during the all-star game.
Mikhail Grabovski: B. Quietly hit the 50-point mark and played a dependable defensive game while being overshadowed by his higher scoring teammates. Expectations will rise with his new contract next season.
Tyler Bozak: B-. This was a considerable improvement over 2010-11, as he hit a career high with 47 points and wasn’t nearly as big a defensive liability. Relying on him 19 minutes a night is still far too much.
Tim Connolly: D. After a solid start, he slid to third-line duties and was invisible on too many nights. Surprisingly dropped from the top power play unit early, he had just five points all year on the man advantage -- a career low.
Clarke MacArthur: C+. His goal production was right on par with where it was during his breakout last season, but he also seemed less of a factor on many nights. Still led the team in plus-minus and showed solid chemistry with Grabovski.
Nikolai Kulemin: D. A nightmare season to end all nightmare seasons, Kulemin dropped from 30 goals to just seven in a one-year span. He was alarmingly reluctant to shoot the puck and, despite playing a sound defensive game, set himself up for a much smaller contract this off-season than he would have otherwise.
Matt Lombardi: D. Just getting back to the NHL was a win for Lombardi after missing an entire season, but his game clearly suffered as a result of a summer spent off the ice and in recovery.
Joey Crabb: B+. He lit up the AHL after failing to make the Leafs out of training camp and was one of the few dependable scorers on the lower lines. His 26 points while playing just 13 minutes a night may just earn him another contract.
Matt Frattin: C+. As far as rookie seasons go, Frattin hardly embarrassed himself in putting up 15 points in 56 games. He also, however, didn’t standout as more than a potential third-liner.
David Steckel: C+. Finished sixth in the NHL in faceoff wins, played a solid role on the penalty kill and took many of the Leafs defensive zone faceoffs. That didn’t do wonders for his plus-minus, but he earned his fourth-line money.
Philippe Dupuis: D. Long since forgotten, Dupuis was a scapegoat early on after failing to put up a point in 30 games in limited minutes.
Colby Armstrong: Incomplete. Injuries decimated Armstrong’s season to the point that he looked like a shell of the player who was expected to play a key leadership role on this team. Only 29, his body may be too beat up to contribute at the level he did in his other NHL stops.
Mike Brown: C+. He can punch, and he’s not a liability defensively, making him an upgrade over Colton Orr. He also doesn’t produce much offence, but for his contract, Brown works in a limited role.
Dion Phaneuf: C+. The captain was an all-star and logged the most minutes on the team after a solid first half, finishing the season among the league leaders in goals and points by a defenceman. But his season went sideways with the rest of the Leafs after the all-star break, with several defensive gaffes bringing on intense criticism to end the year. Ultimately, Phaneuf’s better suited for a smaller role than the 25+ minutes a night the Leafs are giving him.
Carl Gunnarsson: B. A dependable stay-at-homer, he covered for Phaneuf when asked for and wasn’t overwhelmed despite seeing the opposition’s top lines on a nightly basis. Struggled at times late in the year, however.
Jake Gardiner: A. Never expected to make the team out of training camp, Gardiner instead became a regular among the team’s top four. He logged more than 22 minutes a night after the all-star break and even found his offensive game, scoring at a 40-point full season pace late in the year when all hell was breaking loose around him. Hard to ask for more.
John-Michael Liles: C. A Jekyll and Hyde campaign. Liles was en route to a career year when he suffered a concussion in December and came back a changed player. He has since admitted his timing was slightly off after the head injury -- which created a major problem for a team short on experienced blueliners.
Luke Schenn: F. This season was a massive step back for Schenn, whose ice time dropped dramatically to a career low 16 minutes a game after signing a five-year deal for $3.6-million a season just before training camp opened.
Cody Franson: C. Never gained the confidence of the coaching staff and spent plenty of games as a healthy scratch despite providing some decent point production in a bottom pairing role.
Mike Komisarek: F. It’s the contract that keeps on giving.
Jonas Gustavsson: F. His game was up and down and all around, but it really went south during the team’s slide, including several ugly goals that cost Toronto points. The Monster had an .880 save percentage in February and .894 in March as his time in the organization comes to an end. Will not be re-signed.
James Reimer: D. There’s no question his concussion issues played a significant role in a hugely disappointing sophomore year.
Randy Carlyle: Incomplete. Veteran coach jumped on the highway to hell when he landed in the middle of the collapse on March 2. Team went just 6-9-3 under the new coach, but he could hardly be blamed given a few of his troops had thrown in the towel. Next season’s a different story.
Brian Burke: F. For the third straight off-season, Burke overestimated his roster, going in short in goal and with players like Phaneuf being tasked with too much. More responsible for the playoff miss than anyone.Report Typo/Error