The Toronto Maple Leafs spent the offseason looking to build on their playoff berth from the lockout-shortened season. The additions came through trades and free-agent signings, while the team also dumped some salary through buyouts.
Many of the moves have been questioned in most circles. With the personnel changes made, the Leafs are looking for the new faces to contribute early and often.
Through the first two games of the season, the overall play of the newest Leafs has been positive. The impact of Dave Bolland (acquired from Chicago via trade) and Jonathan Bernier (acquired from the LA Kings via trade) was on full display against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.
The acquisition of Bolland upgraded the Leafs' depth up the middle. Known as a player who is aggressive around the net, he scored two goals in the Maple Leafs' 3-1 win over the Flyers.
He gives Toronto a center with good scoring ability along with some grit. His presence makes Toronto’s third line a favorable matchup against most opposing third lines. The experience he brings from two Stanley Cups will be invaluable with Toronto’s relatively young squad.
On Wednesday, Bernier impressed Leafs fans as he stopped 31 of 32 shots (per NHL.com) in his first start against the Flyers. His play in the first period kept Toronto in the game as Philadelphia provided a lot of pressure.
He was not only impressive in several top-notch saves he provided, but also in the way he controlled rebounds. Many difficult shots were held or pushed away from the front of the net. He gave up few opportunities in front of the net.
His performance against the Flyers exceeded the high expectations that came along with the trade for him. Long touted as a potential star in the net, Bernier was behind Jonathan Quick in the Kings' depth chart before his move to Toronto.
While Bolland and Bernier have had a chance to begin proving their worth, the Leafs still have a few weeks to wait on their biggest (financially speaking) offseason acquisition. When David Clarkson returns from his 10-game suspension, the Leafs will add another physical goal-scoring presence to their lineup.
Clarkson is expected to give Toronto a player who will do the dirty work in front of the net. Pairing him with Nazem Kadri could help the young center’s growth.
It is still too early in the season to make a true judgment on whether the additions made to Toronto’s roster were the right ones going forward. There are still many questions regarding the new players that will have to be answered over the next few months.
Will Bernier make himself the first option in goal? Can he prove to be consistent throughout an entire season?
How will the lines look when Clarkson returns? Will he be worth the contract?
It is easy to argue the Leafs need to add a top center or another top scoring forward to take the pressure off Phil Kessel. These are valid points, but those types of players are difficult to acquire without giving up the farm. Management added players it believes will help the Leafs take another step forward.
It may be early, but the indications have been positive.