Toronto Maple Leafs: Is Colby Armstrong the Key to a Winning Formula?

Patrick YaghoobiansAnalyst IIDecember 15, 2010

Colby Armstrong's physical play is the key to Toronto's winning success
Colby Armstrong's physical play is the key to Toronto's winning successJustin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs have won three of their last five games, which is a good number for this team, considering they are recovering from that nine-game losing streak. The Leafs started out the season 4-0, and many people in Leafs nation began celebrating a berth in the postseason for the first time since the 2004-2005 NHL lockout season. Unfortunately, these celebrations were soon over as the Leafs were back into the position that they were in at the beginning of last season: a nine-game losing streak. During this streak, the Leafs lost Colby Armstrong, who was signed during the offseason, and Dion Phaneuf, who was acquired from a trade mid-last season.

When Colby Armstrong has been on the ice for the Maple Leafs, they have been 9-3-1, including the recent win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. Basically, this means that from the 12 wins the Leafs have this season, Colby Armstrong was part of nine of them. He has not made a very big contribution on the ice in terms of scoring goals and adding assists. He has only one goal and one assist on his resume so far, but expect this number to increase as the season progresses. His plus/minus is also nothing to cheer about, as it is a measly minus-three.

Even though the stats do not show it, Armstrong is contributing to the Leafs in a very big way. Watching what he does on the ice is different than what the stats show, so as bad as his stats are, his passing and wise decision-making on the rink are paying dividends for Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs. If assists were given to the last three players to touch the puck, then Colby Armstrong would have had at least 12 assists by now. He is making smart plays in the opponent's zone, in his own zone and on neutral ice, and giving his linemates, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak, very good scoring opportunities.

When Burke signed Armstrong, he knew what he was getting. Burke obtained one of the few men in the league who can be very physical, and at the same time, produce offense. Colby Armstrong is one of those men. He has got his physical game just right, as he leads the opposing teams' players to retaliate most of the time, drawing a penalty. This is the reason he was brought to Toronto, and he is filling his role.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs can continue their success with the help of Colby Armstrong, then the Leafs will begin to be the team that no one wants to play, just like in the beginning of the season. The Leafs currently sit eight points out of a playoff spot, and it is not going to be easy getting in. It is going to take passion, commitment and of course, good team chemistry to make it into the playoffs, and the Leafs seem to be starting to do just that.

Thanks for reading. More articles to come soon about the blue and white.