Depth at Agitator Position

Mark MakuchCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2008

Man are the fans up in arms about Hollweg for a fifth round pick next year.

I've got to admit—Fletcher is tossing around picks a wee bit more than I'd like, but you can see a team identity forming here before it even hits the preseason ice.

Tough to play against.

I was hoping last year's Leafs were going to embody this type of team identity, but man was I sorely mistaken. Not only were they out-hustled, they were out-hit and out-checked most of the time as well.

Only Belak fought, and he only played in 37 games. Tucker was a ghost of his former feisty self. After that, the toughness of the Leafs sunk like a stone. There was no jam. Only milk-toast.

This offseason, we can see that Fletcher is making a lot of moves to alter that sad reality. Hagman, Mayers, and now Hollweg have replaced Tucker and Belak at the agitator position.

I like these moves because the new group is younger and faster. There is some depth now, especially with backups Newbury and Ondrus in the minors for spot duty (sorry to say, that's all they are good for).

To this are the defensive additions of a physical Frogren, Finger and possibly Schenn, and suddenly, the Leafs aren't looking so weak. Knowing that Bell and Blake can play a tough style helps too.

A Mayers—Moore—Hollweg line could be a great grinding combination. If Wilson can get Steen and Stajan to get a bit more physical, I'm looking forward to seeing some bodies flying around the ACC, the kind not dressed in the blue and white.

The Leafs will struggle to score, that much is clear, unless Blake has a rebirth and one of Tlusty, Kulemin or Grabovski suddenly takes it to an unexpected level. But they won't be a team that will be shoved around anymore. We've got some depth at the unheralded agitator position, and that's a good thing.