Toronto Maple Leafs: The First Quarter Report Card
Let's take a look at the current Toronto Maple Leaf roster and hand out some first-quarter report cards.
The Leafs currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference, and are only two points out of a playoff spot.
The Leafs had two short winning streaks and one awful losing streak between the two. The future does look brighter, but no one is sure what the near future will bring.
We'll first look at the forwards, then the defence and then finally the goaltending.
MacArthur leads the Leafs in assists, points and is in the top three on the team in goals and plus/minus. I thought he was invaluable since his signing in the off-season, and he has proven me correct, but since he’s started in the NHL, he’s been known to be streaky, especially in the beginning of the season. Watch out for C-Mac to probably go into a slump, hopefully the energy of his line mates keep him at his current tempo. B+
He is first on the team in assists, and second in both points and plus/minus. The best part of his game is hustling back on each and every play, which people haven’t been noticing. In the first eight games, he led the team in plus/minus and was second in assists. But with no goals, it wasn’t enough for most fans. Since then, Mikhail has been on fire, scoring 12 points in his last 10 games (five goals, seven assists). A-
Kulemin is second on the team in goals, and third in points. Not just in points, Kuly brings intangibles to the Leafs team no other forward does. He’s a power forward, two-way forward and playmaker all in one. He may never be a 40-goal scorer, but he can do just about everything else. His hustle, strength, and energy are what are most noticed. Look for Kulemin to continue to develop. B+
Kessel is first on the team in goals, and third last in plus/minus. Kessel will never be mistaken for a two-way player, but he needs to learn how to play hard each and every shift. Kessel had seven goals in his first eight games, and only two in the last 12. He needs to become that big game player, as long as he continues to learn, it won’t be too far away. B-
Versteeg is first on the team in powerplay goals, but second-last in plus/minus. He's finally starting to discover his game and place on these Leafs. After only one goal in the first nine games; he’s had four goals and seven points in the last six games. Versteeg has shown plenty of speed and energy while hustling back on most plays, but that comes from making bad passes and missed shots in the offensive zone. Versteeg has settled in well on the third line in a speedy defensive role, while getting the chance on the power play as the hired gun at the point with three PP goals in the last four games. C+
Bozak has only six points in his first 20 games as a top-six center, mostly playing on the first line as Phil Kessel’s setup man. Those are some humbling numbers after a great start last season. Bozak had 27 points in 37 games for the Leafs as a rookie. Bozak has all the tools necessary to be a good playmaker in the NHL, but he isn’t consistent enough yet. C-
In his first five games this season, he already has 4 assists. Kadri has the vision and instincts to be a great playmaker, but more intriguing than that, he is about 30 pounds away from having somewhat of a power forward game. In just a handful of games Kadri has made some terrific passes, but also has shown that he gets knocked off the puck quite easily and can’t finish yet. His game will improve. B-
We can’t expect the Cambridge boy to become the Leafs' Steven Stamkos after his 2 goals in 2 games to start the season, but Brent’s been a solid defensive checker and strong on the PK. Playing some nights against the other team's number-one line, he’s shown he can shut them down. Brent needs to be slightly better on face-offs, and find a way to get the puck in every now and then though. C+
Some nights you could say he’s the Leafs' best forward. Brown has shown toughness, energy, and strong checking this season, not to mention his beautiful Mo. He’s third among Leafs forwards in blocked shots, and strong play on the penalty kill says why most Leaf fans love this guy. B-
Sjostrom knows his role, and plays it well. First among Leaf forwards in hits and strong play on the PK have shown he knows his role. Sjostrom will never have the skill to put the puck in the net, he usually flubs them more than other bottom six players. C+
The team’s enforcer has been able to bring energy to the team with his hits and fights, though he still needs to stop making bad penalties. C
Among the most overpaid on the team, Armstrong has not been able to show off his best skills, being a pest in front of the net, and delivering that big hit. This is where Armstrong does his best work, and in the games he did play before his injury, he had shown none of it. D
Zigomanis is a strong role player, who excels on face-offs. Zigo played fairly well in his defensive role, bringing energy and a strong backcheck. He should be brought back up as a stable role player. C+
In the few games he played, he showed he could be a strong power forward. He needs to be sent to the Marlies if he isn’t going to get ice-time with the Leafs. NA
As most fans have noticed, Mitchell plays like he is an NHL all-star, though he could be a strong third-line checker if he wanted to. Mitchell chooses to deke or make a bad pass instead of a proper dump in. Mitchell’s faceoffs have improved though. D-
Kaberle is only second in the team in assists, and leads the defence in points as well. He has settled down after a wild off-season last year, though he is still in the top five in the NHL in giveaways. You can learn to expect that from an offensive and power play quarterback, but he still needs to shoot more and lose the puck less. Not only has he been skilled at the breakout, Kaberle’s leadership and experience in pairing up with Luke Schenn this season has relaxed the young D-man and allowed him to develop much better this season. B-
Schenn is already second on the Leafs' defence in points, which isn’t saying too much, and first on the team in plus/minus. He has really worked hard this past off-season, and teaming up with Kaberle has enabled him to become the Leafs' best defenceman so far. Schenner is already able to hit, defend, block shots, and lead the puck out of the zone like the best of them. Surprisingly, he’s been also able to show he does have a little of an offensive upside. If he continues to grow, an All-Star Game appearance isn’t that far away. A-
Komisarek has been the shutdown guy for the Leafs all season. Since Dion Phaneuf has been out, he’s handled the extra minutes quite easily. Before that, he felt more rushed to try to make an extra play. This is Komisarek at his best, when you don’t notice him. Blocking shots, making hits, clearing the front of the net, and doing this against the other team’s top line. As long as you don’t see him, it’s a good thing. C+
Beuchemin is fourth in the league in giveaways, and fourth among Leaf defencemen in points. For a man who leads the team again in ice time, he isn’t what you need to either be that shutdown guy or the offensive flair to help the forwards. Beauchemin has been fairly solid the past five games, which has helped the Leafs on this current path, but he needs to continue to make less errors and block shots as he has been doing so lately. C-
The team captain has shown he has leadership qualities, and has brought loads of jump and swagger to this youthful team but his play hasn’t followed suit. Before going out of the line-up with his current leg injury, he led the Leafs in hits and in missed shots. The bad thing about the hits are their timing. They took him out of position on a couple of 2 on 1s for the opposition, as well as his pinch ins. Phaneuf needs to straighten out his game more - less is more for a defenceman. When he comes back, Phaneuf needs to get more shots low on net (instead of the glass behind the goaltender) and play the puck more than the player. C-
Gunnarsson, much like Komisarek, has steadied his game with more ice time. Gunner had not started the season too well, but since then he’s played with more confidence. Gunner has shown to be a good puck carrier out of the zone and follows the play well. I would actually like to see him on the powerplay, since the rest of the defence has been futile so far. His game might flourish as a result. C
This lumbering kid has looked very steady in his first few games with the big club. He controls his game well in his own end, and rarely makes an error. As long as he continues this strong patch, the future looks bright. B-
Lebda is in the bottom 10 in the league in plus/minus, and he hasn’t been able to carry the puck out of the zone well, which he was much better at while in Detroit. Lebda’s bad passes and defensive zone coverage have led to strong chances for the opposition. He needs to practice and partner with a more steady defenceman to get back into play. D-
Giguere has backed up his team fairly well most nights, though his past few starts weren’t the greatest with a few soft, stinky goals that had a bit of an odour to them. Giguere is a steady goaltender on most nights, but he needs to be able to make a big save more frequently to be a top 10 goaltender in the league again. C+
With Giguere out, the Monster has risen to the occasion. Gustavsson is in the league's top 10 in save percentage and would have a much better record if given more offensive help. He has made timely saves and steadied the club's goaltending this season. If given more starts, he will only improve the Leafs' record. B