Toronto Maple Leafs: Recent Losses Indicative of Lineup Changes Coming Soon

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2010

Time for team hug, before the axe drops
Time for team hug, before the axe dropsAbelimages/Getty Images

With the news that Lee Stempniak scored a hat trick and on the same night that not only did The Habs lose again but so did The Leafs, surely trade rumours must be bubbling to the surface in several other NHL cities.  The Maple Leafs are next set to tangle with the Flyers, and this is a pivotal game.  There are some players on The Leafs who are admittedly underperforming, though it's early, yet the demotion of Jeff Finger gives the team cap space to dangle as incentive.

Maybe Finger looks attractive these days to Ottawa.

The Leafs game last night against The Rangers featured some line juggling and some benching.  Tyler Bozak is in Coach Wilson's doghouse, apparently, which could prompt the elevation of John Mitchell, who might by now be simply hungry enough to finally show some tenacity on a regular basis, notwithstanding the many able youngsters still riding the Marlies bus these days. 

Yes, the Leafs remain atop the Northeast, but now have lost two in a row, and Boston has now won two in a row - both against The Capitals - charging hard to move into first.

On several levels, and for morale alone, The Leafs need to beat The Flyers.  However, it seems Kris Versteeg is mired in a slump, and (as was pointed out by TV commentators) Phil Kessel and Clark MacArthur have supplied 10 of the Leafs 17 goals—now 18, after Colby Armstrong finally potted his first as a Leaf.  Thus, certainly words are being spoken to both Nicolia Kulemin and Mikhael Grabovski, who, despite their great cycling skills, still need to bury a puck before Burke drops the axe.

At this stage of the season, the mid-summer scribes and pundits are being proved correct: Toronto needs a real scoring threat today and not another blueliner.  If indeed Burke were looking for a defenseman, he would've picked up Brendan Mikkelson off waivers, who instead landed in Calgary. 

On that front, with another loss, perhaps an aging Jarome Iginla is on the block.  After all, with Matt Stajan third in scoring points, and given Toronto once scooped Doug Gilmour, perhaps another deal is in the works.  There are not a lot of potential free agents worthy of discussing, and it remains to be seen, but he's done it before, whether Burke can drop the hammer and deliver another blockbuster deal.

Mike Zigomanis and Tim Brent have certainly shown some promise on the ice, however before we get too attached to their skill sets, they might be attractive to another manager, not to mention The Leafs' scoring leader, the aforementioned MacArthur, as well as Kulemin and Grabovski.  As stated, the game against the Flyers is pivotal.  With a win, the team is validated; with a loss, the trade rumors will be unrelenting, and action inevitable.

Though currently on the shelf, Mike Commodore has been mentioned in trade rumors, as the Blue Jackets have recently experienced injuries to their blue line.  Michael Ryder is an enigma, and still tops many rumour lists, but is managing to effectively accrue points for The Bruins.  But the big nut has to be Brad Richards; Burke acquiring him will rely on The Stars slumping mid-season, and The Leafs remaining competitive and still heading toward a playoff spot over the next few months. 

On the Eastern Front, Zach Parise could be wrestled from the Devils, who have done a wonderful job of struggling out of the gate in the wake of the Ilya Kovalchuk signing.  Too bad, so sad.