The debate about whether the Eastern or Western Conference is better is still going on. The Maple Leafs are trying trying to be the team that makes everyone say it is the East, as is every other team.
The Maple Leafs have something that a lot of teams do not have: a great mixture of skill and youth.
The Maple Leafs are the youngest team in the league and did not show it during the stretch run last season. The Leafs went 11-6-4 during the stretch run and were one of the most exciting teams to watch.
Nevertheless, the Maple Leafs have a great combination of speed, skill, and youth. Tyler Bozak is one of the best little-known young players in the entire National Hockey League, while Luca Caputi was impressive in his first half-season with the Leafs. Christian Hanson, who is a great penalty kill and third or fourth line type player, is another one of those young and talented Buds.
Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle and Mike Komisarek are known as some of the best defencemen in the East. Phaneuf was absolutely outstanding for the Leafs, while Beauchemin and Kaberle both suited up for all 82 games last season, scoring 26 and 49 points respectively. Unfortunately, we did not get to see much of Komisarek. He was injured only 34 games into the season.
That is not all of the Maple Leafs talent that helps make the Eastern Conference better.
We all know about Phil Kessel, the 5'11" right winger out of Madison, Wisconsin. Kessel lived up to expectations in his first season with the Leafs, scoring 55 points (30 goals, 25 assists) in 70 games, and will be expected to surpass those statistics during the 2010-2011 season.
With Boston, Kessel scored just 18 points in his rookie season, before being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Kessel won the battle against the cancer and eventually returned to the Bruins for the 2007-2008 season, where he played all 82 games, scoring 18 points. Kessel then broke out during the next season, scoring 36 times, while adding 24 assists.
Too go along with one of the best management duos in hockey , the Leafs also now boast one of the best goaltending duos in hockey.
Jonas Gustavsson is still learning, but he had a solid rookie season and has a good veteran to learn from , Jean-Sebastien Giguere. In 42 games, the Monster went 16-15-9 with a goals against average of 2.87 and a save percentage of .902.
Giguere, the veteran, saw his stats improve by a lot once he came to Toronto. His final goals against average was 2.85 and his final save percentage was .907.
The Leafs do not make the Eastern Conference the better conference, but any team with the likes of Komisarek, Gustavsson, Kaberle, Kessel, Bozak, and Beauchemin certainly improves where they play, and that is exactly what the Maple Leafs have done.
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