Well, it's ten games into the season in Leaf Land, and the team has already surpassed expectations. While many thought that the Leafs would be a "doormat" franchise, they have proved to be far from that. They have shown an uncanny ability to keep themselves in games, and accomplish many other things that previous Leafs teams didn't seem to be able to do, like play responsibly in their own zone, and not take foolish penalties. Ron Wilson has his team playing a defense-first system, and the players seem to be adapting fairly well to it.
The good news does not end there, though. The Leafs have also seemingly broken their pre-season trend of blowing third period leads, and although sitting through some thrid periods can be a bit dicey, they have shown that they are clearly capable of holding on to a lead.
I would be remissed if I failed to meantion some of the players that have stood on their heads thus far. Vesa Toskala has been, quite simply, Vesa, meaning he has given the Leafs a chance to win every night. He has quickly proven himself to be possibly the best pickup former GM John Ferguson Jr ever made, and seems to be handling the intense work load piled on him by Ron Wilson quite well.
In the back end, who can forget the young Luke Schenn, who has been masterful in his first ten games. Luke gives Leaf fans a reason to be excited for the future, and why not? He plays with veteran poise in his own zone, and averages over twenty-one minutes a game. He truly is one of the reasons the Leafs are playing well this season. As well, Mike Van Ryn has been impressive, showing great puck moving skills, as well as chipping in for six points thus far.
Up front, there has been the usual solid production from the "twin towers" Ponikarovsky and Antropov. With both averaging close to a point per game, one can expect a large portion of the offence this season to come from these players. Other noteworthy players include Matt Stajan, who has been on a tear recently, and first time Leaf John Mitchell, who has shown great hustle, determination, and skill.
As for disappointments, it is hard to put a finger on very many, although one would have to be the Leafs' poor shootout performances. While many may hate shootouts with a passion, they are a reality, and if the Leafs have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to win more than one out of every four shootouts. Also, one expects more offence from the scoring-deprived Jason Blake. That being said, Jason has chipped in with four points thus far, and has improved his play without the puck.
While it is still early in the season, and while the Leafs are by no means tearing up the league, having a 4-3-3 record after playing the likes of Montreal, Detroit, Anaheim, Ottawa, and the Rangers is giving many Leaf fans a reason to be optimistic. After opening the season as projected doormats, the Leafs have managed to put smiles on the faces of many fans, something that was not supposed to happen.