The story of the Toronto Maple Leafs' 2010 season.
Character breakdown:IN: Phil Kessel, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Garnet Exelby, Jonas Gustavsson, Colton Orr.
Potentially in: Nazim Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stahlberg, Jason Allison, Christian Hanson, Jay Rosehill.OUT: Nikolai Antropov, Pavel Kubina, Anton Stralman, Tim Stapelton, Kris Newbury, Jay Harrison.
Potentially out: Jeff Finger, Mike Van Ryn.
Our goal is to make the playoffs next year; we're going to have to make some changes to do it. We're going to be a different team. I like a lot of hitting. I like a lot of fighting. We have a passive group. All year long, when a trainer was on the ice -- it was always our trainer -- that really bothered me.
Is this a playoff team?
Never say never with Brian Burke, but as the pre-season winds down, it is probably safe to assume that, aside from a few kids who may surprise and steal a spot, Toronto's opening day roster is set. There are still a couple of pieces on defence in particular that could be moved. Looking at it from top to bottom, it is more than obvious that there has been a change of the guard, and Brian Burke is in full effect. The added toughness on the back end from free-agent signings such as Komisarek and Beauchemin will go a long way in wearing down divisional opponents, in fact, each defensive pairing will have someone more than capable of landing a game changing hit at any time. Beauchemin in particular is very intriguing since he was buried to a certain extent in Anaheim. He has an absolute rocket of a shot, which will be on display, blasting feather passes from Kaberle on the powerplay.
Toronto's crop of forwards are a different story. While they have improved overall with the acquisition of Phil Kessel and some creative college pick ups, their top 6 is still small, with relatively little star power. That being said, this is still the team that, despite being criticized in the media as being "a bunch of third liners," were able to grind it out and basically score at will for stretches of last season. I believe they have an interesting mix of forwards who will have good chemistry, and will find a way to get it done on a nightly basis. If the Leafs get off to a decent start to the season and are not in a hole by the time Kessel returns to the lineup, then yes; this is a playoff team
. They still need to bring in some size up front to go along with their added toughness on the back end and on the 4th line. It would also be ideal for them to acquire a play making center to play with Kessel, who scored 60% of his goals off of passes from Marc Savard. Projected lines:
Hagman - Stajan - Kessel
Ponikarovsky - Grabovski - Blake
Mitchell - Bozak - Stempniak
White - Primeau - Orr
Kaberle - Komisarek
Beauchemin - Schenn
Van Ryn - Exelby
This will be a very hard working and exciting team to watch. They could still use some more size up front, but this is a team that I would be proud to cheer for, and I will be watching them a lot this season. I believe they match up very well against divisional opponents, and will give a lot of teams headaches. Barring injuries and assuming Toskala has a solid year, (as he should) I could see this team landing somewhere between 5th and 9th in the Conference.