NHL

2010-11 NHL Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

| by Sports Nickel

2009-10 RECORD:

30-38-14/74 points

5th in Northeast Division

15th in Eastern Conf.

—————-

GM: Brian Burke

COACH: Ron Wilson

—————-

2010-11 PAYROLL:

$63,171,000 ($0.6M above cap)

Ah, Toronto. How easy is it to poke fun at thee? Let me count the way. Well, there’s the fact that Leafs management seems to despise first round draft picks, shipping them off for guys like Phil Kessel. There’s the fact that the pick Toronto flipped for Kessel was turned into superstar rookie Tyler Seguin. There’s the fact that Toronto traded current Boston Bruins starting goalie Tuukka Rask for the immortal Andrew Raycroft. There’s the fact that Toronto still believes Mikhail Grabovski is a reliable scoring option. Heck, there’s the fact that even the most optimistic Leafs fans I know don’t see a playoff season out of Toronto. Or it could be as simple as the fact that Toronto has become a cellar-dweller in the league, and thanks to Chicago’s Stanley Cup victory has gone Cupless the longest, since 1967.

Toronto has become the joke of the NHL, and this year doesn’t appear to be much different. They try to create an environment of “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence” according to GM Brian Burke, yet their scoring lines are filled with guys who wouldn’t hit a punching bag lest they be struck back. They really have no forward depth, their defense is filled with guys who don’t think, and their goaltending, while decent, is hardly worldbeating enough to salvage the franchise. It’s going to be another long, putrid season for the Leafs, capped off with their (likely high) first round pick travelling to Boston. Can it get any worse for a fan?

#
Pos
Name
Height
Weight
Age

9
F
Colby Armstrong
6′ 2″
195
27

42
F
Tyler Bozak
6′ 1″
195
24

37
F
Tim Brent
6′ 0″
188
26

18
F
Mike Brown
5′ 11″
205
25

84
F
Mikhail Grabovski
5′ 11″
183
26

81
F
Phil Kessel
6′ 0″
202
23

41
F
Nikolai Kulemin
6′ 1″
225
24

16
F
Clarke MacArthur
6′ 0″
191
25

39
F
John Mitchell
6′ 1″
204
25

28
F
Colton Orr
6′ 3″
222
28

38
F
Jay Rosehill
6′ 3″
215
25

11
F
Fredrik Sjostrom
6′ 1″
218
27

32
F
Kris Versteeg
5′ 10″
182
24

26
F
Michael Zigomanis
6′ 0″
200
29

22
D
Francois Beauchemin
6′ 0″
213
30

4
D
Jeff Finger
6′ 1″
209
30

36
D
Carl Gunnarsson
6′ 2″
196
23

15
D
Tomas Kaberle
6′ 1″
214
32

8
D
Mike Komisarek
6′ 4″
243
28

29
D
Matt Lashoff
6′ 2″
204
24

23
D
Brett Lebda
5′ 9″
195
28

3
D
Dion Phaneuf
6′ 3″
214
25

2
D
Luke Schenn
6′ 2″
229
20

35
G
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
6′ 1″
202
33

50
G
Jonas Gustavsson
6′ 3″
192
25

MOST IMPORTANT COG OF 2010: Dion Phaneuf, defender, captain and lightning rod. Years ago—hard to believe since Phaneuf is still so young—he was considered an elite defender and future megastar. If four years ago you would have asked me if I’d rather have Phaneuf or Crosby, I would have said Phaneuf. However, his game seems to have deteriorated to the point where instead of being a future star, he’s now viewed as a brainless player who strikes out on body checks. Suffice it to say this reputation has been earned. Now, Phaneuf is decked out in a Leafs jersey with a C on it, and every pair of eyes will be trained on him to see if he can rediscover his dominant form. He has the physical tools, but he’s not put together right now. The only way the Leafs can flirt with threatening for the playoffs is if Phaneuf becomes elite again. He can dish the big hits and score the big goals. Will he? That’s the question.

KEY ACQUISITION: Kris Versteeg, winger (trade from Chicago). Versteeg was a victim of Chicago’s offseason cap purge, and Toronto gave up a nice little cache of prospects to get him. Versteeg, 24, had always been a solid offensive player, but these past playoffs he seemed to reinvent himself as a two-way stalwart. The emphasis here is on the seemed. Yes, he was more responsible defensively, but he still isn’t particularly strong… something that will cause problems in Toronto’s defensive system. As a result, I don’t consider Versteeg a two-way stud. Now, Versteeg is still a solid scorer, which is why I have him as the Leafs’ key acquisition. He will be expected to step in and succeed on one of the top two lines. Granted, he hasn’t really given the indication that he’ll be successful in that kind of a role, but that’s what Toronto needs him to do. Best case scenario, he and his wicked shot help add depth to the Toronto offense. Worst case scenario, he’s overmatched. Either way, he’s a key guy to Toronto’s hopes.

KEY DEPARTURE: Honestly, Toronto was so bad last year that any departure would really be a welcome one. So, I’m going to go outside the box and select Toronto’s 2010 first round draft pick as their key departure. Instead of resting in their hands, they flipped it into Phil Kessel and watched Tyler Seguin suit up in a Bruins jersey. Seguin, 18, is what people call a can’t miss prospect. He’s often been compared to Steve Yzerman in terms of his game, which is awfully lofty praise. He can score in bunches and shows a ton of heart on both ends of the rink. If Seguin was in Toronto, they would have a linchpin for the next two decades. But, because he isn’t, they’re far worse off. And yes, I know how talented Phil Kessel is.

KEY YOUNGSTER: Luke Schenn, D. Schenn is the perfect Brian Burke-type defender: big, tough as nails, no excuses, heart on his sleeve. The 5th overall pick in the 2008 Draft, Schenn will never be an elite scorer (though he will be capable), but he has the potential to become an elite defender. He’s the type of guy who will do anything to help the team win, whether that’s delivering a big hit or laying out to block a shot. Last season was disappointing due to defensive inconsistency, but he seems to be rebounding out of it and is primed for a solid season. This guy is pure nastiness, and if he earns a consistent Top-4 spot, the Leafs will become that much harder to play this season.

OUTLOOK: I don’t trust this team as far as I can throw them, and it’s really difficult to throw 23 professional athletes wearing hockey gear. The team has made some solid offseason additions with Versteeg and Colby Armstrong, but I really can’t see them escaping the Northeast’s basement. They simply aren’t good. Their forward depth is still only envied by a peewee team; is Mikhail Grabovski really a top forward? Their defense is littered with guys like Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek, who try to lay a hit at all costs while ignoring the external situations. The goaltending? JS Giguere was last good in 2008. There’s really nothing there to inspire confidence or faith, other than Kessel, a guy who is allergic to passing. If that counts as faith, then I have faith in Toronto’s ability to stink it up once again and send their prize draft choice over to Boston.

FINAL PREDICTION:

  • 32 wins
  • 70 points
  • 5th in Northeast/15th in Eastern Conference

2010-11 NHL Previews: Toronto Maple Leafs is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust

 

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