7 Ways the NHL Lockout Will Benefit the Toronto Maple Leafs

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

7 Ways the NHL Lockout Will Benefit the Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Once you get past the initial pain of being denied the opportunity to see NHL hockey, fans can look at their particular team and figure out ways that the lockout can help their team's long-term performance.

    In the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, that means giving the franchise more time to develop young prospects so they can be ready when an opportunity to play at the NHL level comes about.

    This also gives the organization more time to study their own prospects and coach them up. In some cases, minor-league prospects will not develop into NHL-caliber players. The opportunity for management to scrutinize these players and come to sound conclusions on their eventual NHL readiness is also a benefit.

    Here's a look at how the Maple Leafs will benefit from the lockout.

Mark Owuya

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    The goaltending problems the Toronto Maple Leafs have had are well-documented.

    They have been deficient in this area for several seasons, and general manager Brian Burke knows that if the team is going to break its streak of not getting to the playoffs, it must get a better performance from its goaltenders.

    Mark Owuya is one of the goaltending prospects whom the Leafs believe may have a chance to upgrade the position. He had a 1.94 goals against average with the Toronto Marlies last season and also registered two shutouts.

    He will get a further chance to develop with the Marlies as a result of the lockout.

Morgan Rielly

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted defenseman Morgan Rielly with their first-round pick last summer.

    There is not much question that Rielly has the talent to become a solid NHL player, but he was injured throughout much of the 2011-12 season and he needs the time to develop.

    If there had been no lockout, there would have been excess pressure to move the highly-touted Rielly up to the big club before he was ready.

    They most likely would not have done that, but the lockout removes the pressure to promote him before his time.

    Rielly continues to play with Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League.

Nazem Kadri

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    Nazem Kadri has been at the top of the Leafs' list of future stars since he was drafted with the seventh pick overall in the 2009 draft.

    He has put his explosive talent on display at the minor-league level, but he has not distinguished himself in brief tours with the Maple Leafs in 2010-11 and '11-12.

    Kadri was all but assured of making the roster this year. He will play with the Marlies until the strike gets settled. When that happens, he should be at the top of his game and ready to play at his best in the NHL.

Joel Colborne

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    Joe Colborne will benefit from the NHL lockout.

    He will have a chance to fully test the wrist he injured last season (source: NHL.com). He had offseason surgery, and the lockout gives him a chance to recover fully and strengthen the wrist before he has a chance to play at the NHL level.

    Prospects who are injured tend to want to get back into the lineup as soon as possible, and that could be detrimental when one is recovering from an injury. A longer lockout would prevent this from happening.

Matt Frattin

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    Matt Frattin has been a part of the Maple Leafs' long-range plans since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2007.

    He seemed like a sure thing to make the team out of training camp this year. Once the season starts and the lockout is over, the right wing from Edmonton should find himself with the Maple Leafs.

    Frattin will get a chance to sharpen his skills at the minor-league level with the Marlies if the lockout is a short one. However, an extended lockout will keep him from developing against upper-echelon NHL players.

    Frattin had 15 points in 56 games with the Maple Leafs last year.

Korbinian Holzer

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    By nearly all accounts, Korbinian Holzer is ready to take his place on the Toronto Maple Leafs and play regularly as a defenseman.

    The German native is 24 years old, 6'3" and 206 pounds. He has the size and strength to play a physical style, and that's one of the things that the Leafs need to establish.

    However, if the lockout is a short one, Holzer will be sharp and prepared by the time the season starts, and that could make him a more effective player. A longer lockout will not serve a purpose because he should be able to play at the NHL level this year.

Brian Burke

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    The heat is on Brian Burke in Toronto.

    The heat has been on him since he was hired as general manager of the Maple Leafs in 2008. However, when he was hired, he had time and opportunity to return the team to glory.

    That time is all but up in the minds of the Maple Leafs fans. Maple Leafs ownership may not have a lot of patience either.

    The team must get back to the playoffs if he is going to remain in his position.

    So how does the lockout help him? If the lockout results in a shorter season, it could benefit the Maple Leafs.

    Toronto got off to a solid start last year before fading in February and March. If the season had been two-thirds as long as normal, the Leafs would have been in the playoffs.

    Perhaps the Leafs will play 50 to 60 games this season.

    That may make it easier for the Leafs to make the playoffs and for Brian Burke to keep his job.