Toronto Maple Leafs Set to Turn Corner and Regain Cup-Winning Form

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2010

Watch Versteeg score a hat-trick against the Panthers
Watch Versteeg score a hat-trick against the PanthersPaul Bereswill/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs assigned Jeff Finger to the Marlies on October 13.

Fully 13 days later, and with no additional transactions to report, other than sitting Carl Gunnarsson and Mike Zigomanis (in a vain coaching attempt to evade a losing streak), there are now some significant lineup changes bubbling up.

The Leafs' vaunted first line at the start of the season is a failed experiment due to an obvious lack of chemistry between Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg.

As a result, Nikolai Kulemin will now be given a shot against the Panthers up front, and if the team manages to score more goals than Florida, then he will likely remain alongside Kessel and Tyler Bozak. In the meantime, per Brian Burke's obvious plan, the team will enjoy the results of Versteeg playing on a seemingly potent second line.

Thus, given the Panthers alleged defensive woes, notwithstanding Bryan McCabe, we should see more point production in general.

I'd like to see, as would surely all fans, Mikhail Grabovski have a banner night—in fact, a banner season. Versteeg, ably assisted by the deceptively crafty Clark MacArthur, will help greatly in this regard. The true test will be tonight, however. MacArthur has put up points so far and surprised us all, and hopefully he will keep it up, but neither Versteeg nor Grabovski has truly emerged a goal scoring threat...yet.

There is indeed one important point to consider these days. The Leafs' defensive corps has been rather frustrating to watch these past few games by continually giving away the puck while attempting to exit their own zone. Normally, we would decry the youthful rookies or vilify a subpar acquisition—blaming, in essence, on one hand the coaches or management on the other.

Until this issue is resolved, it makes sense to throw JS Giguere, as a hardened veteran, into the critical backstopping role. Luke Schenn has certainly been impressive this season, but neither Mike Komisarek nor Francois Beauchemin can make such claims. Yet I'd like to see Dion Phaneuf manage to put his booming shot on net—at least once.

The Leafs were soundly spanked by the Flyers on Saturday.  They had better come out of the gate as if possessed by demented banshees and show some of that exuberance, not to mention truculence, we were truly expecting at the outset of this oh-so-promising season.

I predict a 4-1 victory, with McCabe scoring the lone Panther goal.