What Should We Expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs Next Season?

Shane House@sghcantcopyAnalyst IJuly 20, 2009

TORONTO - APRIL 11:  Alexei Ponikarovsky #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to deflect a shot between Christoph Schubert #5 and Brian Elliott #30 of the Ottawa Senators in a game on April 11, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Senators on the strength of a 3 goal performance by Boyd Devereaux #22. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

This passing season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were, in my opinion, one of the most interesting teams in the NHL.

Sadly though, it wasn't for all the right reasons.

Some nights, the team would come out and give it there all and be a team that was very hard to beat. No matter what the situation was, they would never give up.

But that was what the issue was as well, the situations.

Although they never gave up in games, which is a very admirable quality to instill into a hockey team, they made a lot of mistakes.

Mistakes that made for a lot of games to be both blowouts and games that were blown in the third period.

Surely two qualities that gave Brian Burke both headaches and a lot of sleepless nights.

The question was, what caused those breakdowns with the team?

The answer is simple.

There was a lack of toughness, and the defense would falter because of it.

Sure sometimes there would be a lack of offense and sometimes it would be the goaltending.

But once again, that can be attributed to the fact that the players had a lack of toughness and were pushed around when the game was on the line.

This fact was shown every time the opposing offense was in the Maple Leafs' defensive zone.

So, what did Brian Burke do to rectify the situation?

He paid for toughness.

He bought it in free agency with the additions of Colton Orr and Mike Komisarek, and he traded for it with the acquisitions of Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart.

Collectively last season, these players had a total of 452 penalty minutes, with Colton Orr being third in the league with 193.

Although all of these players are not the most offensively gifted, they do bring some much needed grit and toughness to a team that displayed neither last season.

So, what can we come to expect from the Toronto Maple Leafs next season?

The first thing we can expect is our goaltending to get much better.

Vesa Toskala will be coming in to training camp with a healthy groin for the first time in two years. But instead of him being the clear cut No. 1, he will be pushed by Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson, who was signed out of Sweden this summer.

With that type of goalie competition, combined with a bigger and badder defense, it will mean that there will be less pucks being put into our net.

The second thing we can expect to see is a major spike in the number of fighting majors the Toronto Maple Leafs will be getting.

As I said before, the Leafs bought their toughness this summer with the signing of Colton Orr and Mike Komisarek. Both are not scared to get into the face of their opponents and stir up some trouble.

Finally, the third thing you can expect, and this is not a good part, is for there to be more growing pains.

The Maple Leafs are still a young and maturing team that is low on talent. They still don't have a No. 1 center or a top end scorer that can consistently put the puck in the net.

Plus, their defense is going to be learning off of each other again because of the additions of Komisarek and Exelby and the loss of Kubina.

So, what should we expect overall?

We will be seeing a much tougher team that will be better and tighter defensively, and will always be in the face of the other opponent. Sadly though, the offense will waiver on some nights and will still be very inconsistent once again.

But look for those blowouts and blown leads to happen a lot less throughout next season.

I think that is something that Leafs fans will be very happy to hear going forward.

I have a new blog, and if you want to check it out you can go to http://shanegordonhouse.blogspot.com/ and see all my articles starting from March 7, 2009.


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