The Toronto Maple Leafs' four straight wins to begin the calendar year lulled many in Toronto into a false sense of security.
General managers are loathe to do any tinkering when a team seems to be clicking. Just ask Peter Chiarelli.
This is still a bubble team. An extra loss here or there could mean dropping a couple spots in the standings.
The Leafs' goal this year should be to not only make the playoffs, but to do some damage once there. That could mean putting up a spirited fight in the first round, or better yet, making it to the second round.
In order to achieve that goal, the Leafs are going to need to make some changes soon.
One gets the sense that those changes are indeed coming soon.
You'll recall that Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere were both acquired on January 31, 2010, well in advance of the trade deadline.
The sooner the team makes the necessary changes, the more games they'll win.
Here are five players the team should consider moving soon to gear up for a meaningful playoff run.
Clarke MacArthur has been a good soldier for the Leafs, but he's been relegated to their third line. His old spot on the second line next to Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin has been taken over by Joey Crabb.
The Leafs have not soured on MacArthur and neither have their fans, but a third line winger making $3.25M a year is not a good thing.
On the right team, MacArthur could be a solid second line guy who could be relied upon for about 50 points a year.
Unlike many third-liners in the league, MacArthur has pretty decent trade value.
If Kris Versteeg can net a first rounder and a third rounder, you'd think MacArthur would be able to fetch a similar return.
Of course, the Leafs don't need picks that badly right now. They should package MacArthur to get a bigger, grittier top-six forward so Crabb can return to a role he's better suited to.
This is probably going to be an unpopular choice, but nevertheless, the Leafs should consider using Keith Aulie as trade bait.
He is a young player who will become an RFA at season's end, but one who won't command a significant raise.
Given his skill set and size, he could become a very valuable commodity in the coming weeks.
If you could lock this guy up for a few years at, say, $2 million per, you'd jump at the chance.
Aulie does not play an overly physical style, but he's become a relatively reliable defensive defenseman for the Leafs. He still makes young mistakes, but he has been pretty steady.
The reasons why the Leafs should consider trading him are his trade value and the fact that the Leafs currently have eight NHL-ready defensemen (though Jake Gardiner recently got sent down to the Marlies).
The Leafs should make an effort to re-sign John-Michael Liles and should also give more ice-time to Jake Gardiner.
Gardiner makes a lot of mistakes, but his offensive upside is big.
Given the Leafs' depth at D, Aulie's departure might not hurt them too much. The only concern I would have with Aulie leaving is regarding salary. His departure might mean having to hold on to more expensive players.
This could prove to be another unpopular pick, but here goes.
Nazem Kadri currently has pretty good trade value. However, if he keeps playing like he's playing (i.e. trying to dangle around five guys, being soft on the puck, making young mistakes), his value will start dropping.
That's not to say I don't like the guy, but given what the Leafs are looking for in their lineup (size and grit) and what they currently have, I don't see any room for Kadri on the line-up in the near future.
He could grow into a top-six forward one day, but he's not good enough to be on the Leafs' top six. Normally he'd be fine on the third line, but the Leafs need bigger, tougher bottom-six forwards.
Kadri is on the small side, isn't overly physical and doesn't play too well along the boards. He possesses a lot of skill, but he isn't able to show it too often.
The Leafs need to beef up their top six but also need to make upgrades to their bottom six.
Kadri could be packaged for a big and nasty top-six forward, or, dare I say it, a top-three forward.
Ideally, Kadri would stay with the Leafs and continue his development, but the problem is that he's too good for the AHL and doesn't seem to fit with the Leafs either.
The Nashville Predators didn't want to hold onto Matthew Lombardi's salary, given that he was injured at the time, so they dumped him to Toronto and gave them Cody Franson too.
Leaf fans cheered the trade and hyped Franson up to stratospheric heights.
In a strange twist, Lombardi ended up suiting up for the Leafs long before Franson ever got the chance to.
It's been a few months, and the Leafs should think about dumping his salary to someone else.
Lombardi possesses great speed and some skill, but he will never be a top-six guy for the Leafs and frankly doesn't make a very good bottom-six guy either, at least not in Toronto.
He's getting $3.5M per year for the next two years—way too much for an ineffective third-liner.
Knowing Brian Burke, he could probably flip him for a second round pick.
I'd settle for a gritty and experienced bottom-six guy.
I hate myself for putting Colby Armstrong on this list.
When he first signed with the Leafs (three years, $9M), I thought: "Too much." I still think it's too much if you only consider his on-ice contributions.
Off the ice, Armstrong is a guy you want in your locker room. He gives great interviews, jokes around and generally livens up the place.
Unfortunately, he's been injured countless times since coming to Toronto.
He played 50 games for them last season and has only played in nine so far this season.
He is, of course, currently injured, and there is no timetable for his return. Even if he does return, he's one puck or hit away from missing a few more months.
His $3 million cap hit doesn't count right now, but when he returns, it'll contribute to one of the most expensive third lines in the entire NHL, if not the most expensive.
MacArthur ($3.25M). Lombardi ($3.5M). Armstrong ($3M).
That's a total of $9.75M invested on the third line, a line where all the size and grit is in one player: Armstrong.
I'd love for Armstrong to stick with the Leafs until he retires, but given his history of injuries, it might be better to let another team take the risk.
If the Leafs acquired a different bottom-six guy with experience, grit, size and skill, it would bring more stability to their bottom-six corps.