Promising Early Signs For New Maple Leafs Team on The Way to The Cup

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent ISeptember 17, 2009

LONDON, ON - SEPTEMBER 17:  Ben Ondrus #25 and Joey MacDonald  #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs watch an incoming shot while Ondrus tries to hold up James Van Reimsdyk #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers in a pre-season game  on September 17, 2009 at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

It's pre-season.  The second game for the Maple Leafs is now over.  Not surprisingly, the team won against Philadelphia.  Early days.  It means nothing, but Mike Komiserek performed like a Captain.  Unfortunately, the new Maple Leafs, the stars of the future: Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and Christian Hanson just played without spunk, or maybe they were playing a calm, cool and collected style of hockey. 

Despite winning the game, due to the young guys scoring, the Leafs seemed to be bounced around the boards, especially Mikhail Grabovski.  A top scoring rookie last year, he was also subject to a pretty decent open ice hit, which is likely what he was not expecting.  But not playing in tonight's tilt were Francois Beauchemin, Garnet Exelby and Colton Orr, who all played a very solid game in their debut against Boston

As well, Jeff Finger and Jonas Frogren were given the night off.  Overall, however, the team simply outplayed and outscored the Flyers, though Nikolai Kulemin, Victor Stalberg and Rickard Wallin looked invisible, yet were given plenty of ice time.  With about 5 minutes left in the game it seems that Stalberg injured his arm, likely giving him the night off against the Penguins and some rest for his tired legs. 

Yes, it's plainly obvious the NCAA season, as well as junior and foreign leagues, do not properly prepare young players for the intensity and endurance required for success at the NHL level.  It makes sense that more roster changes are coming down the pipe.

Players and coaches might suggest "rust" has a factor in these early exhibition games, not to mention a lack of chemistry, yet Ben Ondrus plays a really gutsy game, and is pushing hard for a spot.  Jay Rosehill will definitely provide some energy when called up.  But the competitive spirit infected both Lee Stempniak and Nicklas Hagman, who each walked away with decent points.

In fact, with a good bounce of the puck here and there, Hagman has the potential to score a plenty of goals this season, as does Jason Blake, which suggests Matt Stajan and Jiri Tlusty might indeed be on the block.  While the new names and youngsters are given their shot these days, John Mitchell and Wayne Primeau have a lock up front.

The Maple Leafs were deemed one of the worst teams in the league last season by frankly letting in the most goals, but Vesa Toskala looked snappy against the Bruins, and Joey MacDonald and James Reimer didn't let in any goals.  These are great games to watch and wonder what must be going through Brian Burke's mind.

Burke is debating about dropping Phil Kessel into the Leafs lineup.  This acquisition will cost the team some young players, whether now or in the future.  If only the move can possibly improve the team will it make sense.  Burke's right hand man, Dave Nonis, is known to build up from the draft.  Lacavalier is who the team needs.

Burke can wait to make a move involving Kessel, after all he can't play at the moment, and the pressure is moreso on Bruins management to move him and be compensated appropriately, especially as this pre-season progresses along nicely for the Leafs.