Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Toronto Maple Leafs

Along with Florida, they are the only team that has not made the postseason since the lockout, and the patience of many in Leafs nation is shrinking. Brian Burke and Ron Wilson have tried to build this team well, with a combo of homegrown talent and free agents, but time is not a friend to them. The Leafs ended last season on a roll, but does that mean that they have a chance to sniff deep April hockey this season?

Strengths: They didn't score too often last season, as they were only 23rd in the league in that department. But, they have great talent with guys like Phil Kessel (yeah, I had to say it), Nikolai Kulemin, new addition Tim Connolly, and Mikhail Grabovski, however he sustained a nasty looking injury in their final preseason game. These guys, along with others like Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur and possibly Matthew Lombardi based on his health, will have to score more in order for the Leafs to be a better team and stay in games when young standout goalie James Reimer can't keep them in it. He burst onto the scene last season, and has immense promise for a franchise that hasn't had stable goaltending for quite some time, and he looks like he's the one. He's young though, so there is still some time to grow. On defense, they traded for J-M Liles from Colorado this season to pair up with Dion Phaneuf, and they are a very decent top pairing. They also have some young potential behind them, but they haven't quite lived up to the billing just yet.

Weaknesses: Behind Liles and Phaneuf, there is some young talent and good veteran quality, but they have not lived up to their potential, and it remains to be seen whether they can or not. Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn, and especially Mike Komisarek have to play better than they did a season ago, and bring stability back to that group, despite the fact that as an overall group it is pretty solid. They also have got to be consistent this season, as another slow start may dig them too deep a hole in the suddenly crowded Eastern Conference.

Any Help Coming? Leafs fans are waiting for the breakout from C Nazem Kadri, who has tons of potential and promise and skills, but his decision making sometimes brings up questions. C Joe Colborne has plenty of potential and talent, but his impact on games with the Marlies of the AHL can swing dramatically from plentiful, to nothing. D Jake Gardiner is a versatile offensive defenseman who is smart and knows how to play an offensive role due to the fact he was converted from a forward, however he still needs some fine tuning with his defensive skill.

Outlook: If the Leafs can stay consistent this season, then they have a decent chance at finally making the postseason for the first time since 2003-04. They have enough talent everywhere and enough potential to possibly break out, but they may be held back by a James Reimer regression and some issues with the defense corps. But, the amount of promise the Leafs have is improving, and there sure is a feeling that finally, the Leafs postseason duck may be broken.

No comments:

Post a Comment