Toronto Maple Leafs: In-Depth Player-by-Player Analysis for 2011-12 NHL Season

Conor HoganCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs: In-Depth Player-by-Player Analysis for 2011-12 NHL Season

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    With Ron Wilson and Brian Burke finally coming to a conclusion as to their starting roster for the 2011-2012 season, here is a player-by-player analysis of the team. 

    Listed will be the strengths and weaknesses of each player along with last year's performances and predictions to go along with expectations for this year and projected stats for this year.

    At the end will be a few slides with commentary and predictions for this year's offensive, defensive and goaltending situations.

    All stats are taken from the Toronto Maple Leafs' and the NHL's official websites.

G James Reimer, 23, Morweena, MB, CAN

1 of 30

    Last Year: GP 37, W 20, L 10, OT 5; SO 3, 90 GA, .921 SV%, 2.60 GAA

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary Last Season

    James (Optimus Reim) Reimer took Leaf Nation by storm in the second half of last year.  After a brief call-up in January where he posted four wins, the Leaf prospect was called up for good and posted remarkable numbers for a rookie goaltender and was trusted with the No. 1 job going down the stretch. 

    This Year

    Reimer has been given the Leafs net and it's his to lose.  The Leafs played confidently in front of Reimer last season showing heart and character in front of the young netminder.  On paper the Leafs defence has shown a significant upgrade with the additions of the likes of Liles and Franson.  This should greatly help the young Reimer as he sets forth on his first full NHL season.

    The question for the Leafs is can Reimer withstand the gruelling pressure of playing in Toronto along with the length of an entire NHL season?

    Projection: GP 62, W 38, L 17, OT 10;  SO 7, 158 GA, .927 SV%, 2.55 GAA

G Jonas Gustavsson, 26, Danderyd, SWE

2 of 30

    Last Year: GP 23, W 6, L 13, OT 2; SO 0, 68 GA, .890 SV%, 3.29 GAA

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 36, W 17, L 14, OT 5; SO 2, 94 GA, .915 SV%, 2.60 GAA

    Last Year Prediction

    Gustavsson will need to improve on his showing from last year and will have to fight hard for ice time.  Wilson is going to play the goalie who is stopping the most pucks and won't play favourites.

    The hope is for him to challenge Giguere continuously for ice time and to even take over as the No. 1 come season's finale.

    Summary of Last Season

    What I had predicted was correct it was just for the wrong goalie.  Reimer stepped in and pretty well put up those exact same stats (actually better win/loss ratio as well as save percentage).

    This Year

    Gustavsson missed a huge chance last year when Giguere got hurt; he will be hard-pressed to earn the net in Toronto.  Even still, Wilson will play the hot hand and if he starts seeing better play from Gustavsson, he will turn to him.  Loyalty will be given to Reimer, however, because Reimer has shown such great goaltending.

    Projection: GP 20, W 10, L 8, OT 2; SO 0, 58 GA, .897 SV%, 2.90 GAA

D Luke Schenn, 21, Saskatoon, SK, CAN

3 of 30

    Last Year: GP 82, G 5, A 17, 22 P, -7, 34 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 78, G 5, A 17, 22 P, +5, 75 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    With the arrival of newly minted captain Dion Phaneuf, Schenn will have someone to look to who plays a similar rough style Burke hopes he will develop into.  A full season's worth of being able to watch Phaneuf up close and how he plays should do wonders for the impressionable 20-year-old.

    It is expected of Schenn to produce slightly more offensively, but more importantly to become an unforgiving defender in his own zone this year.

    Summary of Last Season

    Schenn had a very good third season in the NHL.  Not only did he improve defensively, he looked comfortable with his given role.  Having the chance to play with and watch Phaneuf last season greatly helped the young defenceman.  Namely just that he wasn't the only defenceman to stick up for his goalie as well as just another big crushing body on the D-line.  

    This Year

    Schenn will be looked upon to be the primary shutdown defenceman for the Leafs.  Despite that, Schenn should still be able to chip in offensively here and there.  Every NHL team needs a top-end shutdown defenceman; the Leafs are lucky to have a bona fide one who is only 21 years of age.

    Projection: GP 79, G 4, A 21, 25 P, +4, 50 PIM

D Carl Gunnarsson, 24, Orebro, SWE

4 of 30

    Last Year: GP 68, G 4, A 16, 20 P, -2, 14 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 70, G 5, A 21, 26 P, +8, 20 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    The Leafs hope he doesn't undergo the growing pains Schenn had to endure last season and will be able to improve dramatically on last year's progress.  It is believed if Gunnarsson shows himself capable enough of handling being the go-to point man on the power play, losing Kaberle at anytime won't be a problem for the Leafs.

    Summary of Last Season

    Gunnarsson stepped up and played well for the Leafs.  He didn't perform quite to the expectations people had hoped for him, but at the same time was far from disappointing to management. 

    This Year

    Gunnarsson will be looked upon by Wilson and his staff to be a solid puck-moving defenceman.  Early partnering looks to have him alongside Phaneuf at the point.  It's hard to really predict how much playing time Gunnarsson will have by the end of this campaign considering how deep the Leafs are on the back end. 

    Considering how solid he is in his own zone, it bodes well for him to remain with the club with a major role the entire season.

    Projection: GP 75, G 6, A 21, 27 P, +2, 20 PIM

D Dion Phaneuf, 26, Edmonton, AB, CAN

5 of 30

    Last Year: GP 66, G 8, A 22, 30 P, -2, 88 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 82, G 15, A 38, 53 P, +10, 90 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    With the added pressure of being named the Leafs captain, Phaneuf will be called upon to turn this team around from a basement dweller into a playoff team in one year.  To go along with that, he will be looked upon to return to returning to a 50-point campaign

    Phaneuf has handled himself very well to date, being the perfect spokesman for the team.  We shall see if his play on the ice, which is what he is paid for, will equal what fans hope for.

    Summary of Last Season

    Phaneuf didn't quite deliver what most fans were hoping for, but to be fair to the bone-crushing defenceman, his injury early in the year definitely set him back.  By the time the burly defenceman was able to get to midseason form the year was nearly over. 

    If you look at the stats when Phaneuf was absent from the lineup, the Leafs were a dismal-looking squad.

    This Year

    The Leafs captain will find it easy to return to 50-plus points with the addition of Liles as well as the young Gardiner on the team.  A healthy Phaneuf will do wonders for this club.  The one thing which Phaneuf will have to watch is to make sure not to accidentally hit anyone's skull; otherwise he might miss lots of playing time.

    Projection: GP 76, G 17, A 38, 55 P, -3, 100 PIM

D Mike Komisarek, 29, West Islip, NY, USA

6 of 30

    Last Year: GP 75, G 1, A 9, 10 P, -8, 86 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 78, G 3, A 12, 15 P, +7, 100 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    Mike Komisarek will look to change from the way he played with the Leafs last year.  Most likely to be suited up with slick-skating Kaberle, Komisarek will be looked upon by Wilson to establish a dominating presence on the back end. 

    The hope is with Komisarek paired with Kaberle they will be able to effectively nullify any offensive attempt by the other team, while also turning the rush around and making scoring opportunities at the other end of the ice.

    Summary of Last Season

    Komisarek seemed to have settled down a little in the second half.  As a whole, he still was trying to accomplish too much to justify his contract.  Komisarek also needs to take smart penalties; he took way to many dumb penalties which cost the team lots of goals.

    This Year

    Komisarek made it clear at training camp that he was focused on working solely on defensive play.  If he continues to remain focused on that he should have a very good unnoticed (always good for a defensive defenceman) season. 

    Look for him to be paired with the small, smooth-skating rookie Gardiner.  Komisarek should offer some big size to protect the youngster as well as scare away opposing forwards from thinking they can just walk in on Reimer.

    Projection: GP 77, G 2, A 7, 9 P, -5, 70 PIM

D John-Michael Liles, 30, Indianapolis, IN, USA

7 of 30

    Last Year: GP 76, G 6, A 40, 46 P, -9, 35 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Liles proved once again last year why he is one of the best playmaking defenceman in the NHL.  It was rumoured around the trade deadline that Burke was attempting to acquire Liles, but nothing came of it untl after the season ended.

    This Year

    Liles is a solid all-around defenceman whose playmaking ability is ranked amongst the best for NHL defencemen.  It is hoped that he will be able to replace the lost offence from the departure of Kaberle and Beauchemin. 

    A lot is expected of Liles on the power play which failed miserably for the Leafs last year.  As a whole the Leafs are expecting Liles to not just produce around 50 points but also lift Phaneuf's point totals back up to 50 as well.

    Projection: GP 82, G 7, A 50, 57 P, +4, 50 PIM

D Jake Gardiner, 21, Deephaven, MN, USA

8 of 30

    Last Year: Minors

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Made his pro debut with the Marlies some time after being acquired in the François Beauchemin trade which also brought Joffrey Lupul to the Maple Leafs.  He performed admirably recording three assists in the 10 games he played.

    This Year

    The exciting young forward-turned-defenceman impressed the Leaf brass so much in training camp he won himself a job despite the deep depth the Leafs have on the back end.  It still remains to be seen if the young D-man will be able to stick with the big club for the entire season.  Considering his exceptional speed and skating ability to go along with his offensive gifts, it would be hard not to see Gardiner sticking with the Leafs for the entire campaign. 

    Expect Gardiner to make tons of exciting plays as well as terrible mistakes throughout the year.  The hope is that as the year progresses the mistakes become fewer, lesser and farther between each other.  He should be a huge boost to the Leafs power play and should see plenty of ice time there.  He will most likely be paired with Mike Komisarek to ensure he doesn't get run over by opposing teams forwards.

    Projection: GP 72, G 10, A 25, 35 P, -8, 20 PIM

D Cody Franson, 24, Salmon Arm, BC, CAN

9 of 30

    Last Year: GP 80, G 8, A 21, 29 P, +10, 30 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Franson got stuck as mainly a power-play specialist in Nashville last season, which frustrated the young defender as he has been accustomed to playing in all situations in games throughout his career to date. 

    This Year

    Franson had hope to win a starting-six role with the Leafs out of camp, but because of the intense battle and depth the Leafs have he will have to settle as the seventh.  Make no mistake, Franson is hoping to jump in and take someone's spot as it looks now he will be hard-pressed to do so.

    If he gets a decent amount of ice time, Franson could be very valuable to the team.  Don't expect him to get any more than 60 games if he's lucky.  Even that will require many injuries, suspensions or just plain poor play from the other Leaf defencemen.

    Projection: GP 52, G 3, A 15, 18 P, -5, 10 PIM

F Colton Orr, 29, Winnipeg, MB, CAN

10 of 30

    Last Year: GP 46, G 2, A 0, 2 P, -1, 128 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 82, G 3, A 3, 6 P, -3, 220 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    Expect Orr's need for fighting to drop a little with the acquisition of Brown.  It is a much-needed help.  Fans will not be disappointed and will see the fights they love, while his teammates will be able to feel protected and loved while he's around.

    Summary of Last Season

    Orr did the job he was called upon to do until he got injured in January.  Apart from his injury he didn't do anything spectacular or out of the ordinary.

    This Year

    Like a tried and true workhorse, you can rely upon Orr to get the job done without hesitation or complaint.  Expect the same hard-nosed attitude from the tough guy but in more games this year.

    Projection: GP 74, G 1, A 3, 4 P, -3, 190 PIM

F Clarke Macarthur, 26, Lloydminster, AB, CAN

11 of 30

    Last Year: GP 82, G 21, A 41, 62 P, -3, 37 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 78, G 21, A 35, 56 P, +4, 50 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    MacArthur has been known as a player with potential offensive upside.  He will be called upon by Toronto to fulfil this on a line with Grabovski and Kulemin.  He is expected to have a breakout year.

    Summary of Last Season

    As predicted by me, MacArthur had a breakout year along with his two linemates.  His offensive output was slightly better than projected, but then again I was just guessing!  MacArthur showed last year that you should never give up on a player who's only slightly underperforming as Atlanta (Winnipeg) did with him.

    This Year

    Burke was reluctant to dish out a long-term big-money contract with MacArthur despite his desire of wanting to keep the winger in Toronto.  The fear of course being was this just a one-year outburst.  Both sides were able to work something out in the end, shorter term and less money than what last year's output deserved.

    Look for MacArthur to continue having offensive success alongside Grabovski and Kulemin.  Expect MacArthur though to struggle somewhat in keeping pace (at times during the year) point-wise with the other two.  MacArthur was very much the setup man for the line, and with that role comes little praise.  However it will be a challenge as a playmaker to step up production from last year.  Much of the onus for his production is the finish from his linemates.  We shall see if they can bury his passes.

    Projection: GP 78, G 23, A 45, 68 P, +1, 44 PIM

F Nilolai Kulemin, 25, Magnitogorsk, Russia

12 of 30

    Last Year: GP 82, G 30, A 27, 57 P, +7 , 26 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 79, G 25, A 26, 51 P, +3, 30 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    The Maple Leafs expect a breakout year from the young forward.  If he doesn't have at least 20 goals this year do not be surprised should the Leafs part ways with him.

    Summary of Last Season

    Kulemin along with his line all had a breakout year, as they all found a wondrous chemistry that never seemed to die or fall into any kind of prolonged slump.  Kulemin exceeded my expectations both defensively as well as goal scoring. 

    Kulemin is one of the most talented backchecking forwards there is in the game.  With his showing last season he has put himself into the realm of Kesler, Datsyuk and the like.  While Kulemin's passing isn't necessarily a weak point of his game, his goal-scoring ability certainly showed itself as very strong.  He ended the season leading his line in goals scored (finished with one more goal than Grabovski).

    This Year

    It would be a disappointment if Kulemin were not able to reach the 30-goal plateau.  Yet all that being said, the young forward is very sound defensively and helps the team in so many other ways than just his goal scoring.  If this were Kessel it would be a different matter.

    Projection: GP 80, G 32, A 35, 67 P, +8, 22 PIM

F Phil Kessel, 24, Madison, WI, USA

13 of 30

    Last Year: GP 82, G 32, A 32, 64 P, -20, 24 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 82, G 42, A 32, 74 P, +20, 25 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    Look for Kessel to be in shape and able to use his great speed effectively from start to finish in each game.  A full year's worth of playing alongside his friend Bozak and Versteeg should see Kessel reach close to the 40-goal mark.

    Summary of Last Season

    All snipers are streaky scorers.  It's just the nature of who they are.  Unfortunately for Kessel and the Maple Leafs, last year his goal droughts were just as long or longer than his scoring streaks.  In oder for a sniper to succeed the exact opposite must be the case.

    Despite his streakiness and his centre struggling with the workload given to him, Kessel managed to still produce over 30 goals.  This of course is very good, but not what the Toronto brass and Leaf Nation were hoping for.

    The great question and hope for this season is for Kessel's goalless streaks to be shorter and fewer than last year.  Of course this greatly depends on whether or not he is able to find good chemistry with his linemates Lupul and Connolly.  Wilson will be fairly patient in giving them lots of time to figure stuff out, unless of course Grabovski and his line starts struggling as well.

    Projection: GP 81, G 37, A 33, 70 P, -5, 18 PIM

F Mikhail Grabovski, 27, Potsam, DEU

14 of 30

    Last Year: GP 81, G 29, A 29, 58 P, +14, 60 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 78, G 27, A 35, 62 P, +7, 50 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    He should bounce back big time given his play during the preseason.  Expect him to flirt with the 30-goal plateau as well as with 60 points.

    Summary of Last Season

    Sure enough, Grabovski flirted dangerously with the 30-goal plateau as well as the 60-point plateau, registering one goal and two points shy respectively.

    It wasn't long before coach Ron Wilson was calling the Grabovski line his No. 1 line, and rightly so.  That line proved to be more consistent in producing points than Kessel and his mates were all year. 

    This Year

    The hope is that this line will be able to continue where it left off last season.  Through the preseason it looks like the line has already hit their stride so there isn't too much concern on that front for the present. 

    Grabovski's all-around strong play is what makes this line so deadly.  He has a very defensive-minded winger in Kulemin and since Grabovski started two years ago to focus on backchecking his offensive play has greatly benefited by it.  Wilson is a lucky coach to have such a solid No. 1 line that he can literally send them out into any situation.

    Look for Grabovski to break the 30-goal barrier and even flirt with surpassing Kessel in goals.  The real thing to watch is whether or not he can reach the 70-point mark.  The Leafs sorely need some players who can put up a point per game.  They might have to settle for six strong players around the 70-point mark.

    Projection: GP 81, G 34, A 37, 71 P, +9, 54 PIM

F Mike Brown, 26, Chicago, IL, USA

15 of 30

    Last Year: GP 50, G 3, A 5, 8 P, +1, 69 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 78, G 5, A 2, 7 P, -2, 120 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    Enough said—he was brought on by the Leafs to ease the workload on Orr.

    Summary of Last Season

    Brown played very well and fulfilled all the duties he was called upon.  Unfortunately for the Leafs he was unable to play the entire season.

    This Year

    Brown will be looked upon once again to be his rugged self and to continue to bring energy to whatever line he finds himself playing on.  Brown might find it hard to get much playing time as the Leafs currently have Rosehill with the big club, who plays a very similar game.  Rosehill is younger and if he performs, the Leafs just might stick with him and part ways with either Orr or Brown.

    Projection: GP 60, G 2, A 3, 5 P, +2, 82 PIM

F Tyler Bozak, 25, Regina, SK, CAN

16 of 30

    Last Year: GP 82, G 15, A 17, 32 P, -29, 14 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 82, G 25, A 50, 75 P, +15, 20 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    His growing friendship with Kessel should only help the two and their chemistry on the ice.  Already in preseason play Bozak looks natural centering Kessel and Versteeg.  Looks to a huge breakout year in his first full season in the NHL.

    Summary of Last Season

    Bozak never quite got the on-ice chemistry with Kessel everyone had hoped for.  Bozak was very much like Stajan before him.  Stajan was a No. 2-type centre forced to play on the No. 1.  Bozak was more of a No. 2 or a good No. 3 centre playing on the top line.

    That pretty well sums up the dismal season Bozak had, and there's no need to dwell upon the struggles.

    This Year

    Look for Bozak to thrive in his new role on the third line.  With Armstrong and Frattin on his wings to start the season, Leafs fans should expect to see a very high-energy, fun line to watch.  He should chip in along with his line some decent scoring but nothing spectacular.  We should see much better numbers as a whole from Bozak.

    Projection: GP 82, G 15, A 24, 39 P, -5, 16 PIM

F Colby Armstrong, 28, Lloydminster, SK, CAN

17 of 30

    Last Year: GP 50, G 8, A 15, 23 P, -1, 38 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: GP 79, G 20, A 15, 35 P, +7, 70 PIM

    Last Year Prediction

    He is very successful at annoying opposing players and is very solid in his own end.  Has some scoring touch, and can fill in on the top two when needed.  He is most likely to be relegated to the third-line checking role, which he does so well.

    Summary of Last Season

    Armstrong did exactly what was expected of him last year and more.  He was such a key part of the Leafs lineup that for the games he was injured the Leafs had a losing record.  In the games he was healthy, he added so much energy and heart that he was a constant motivation to Toronto's lineup.

    This Year

    Look for Armstrong to pick up and deliver exactly what he did last year.  The hope is for as close to a full season as possible for Armstrong, but given the way he plays, fluke injuries are bound to happen—whether it be from a blocked shot or a hard hit.  Expect a little more offense than expected because of his linemates, namely Frattin and Bozak.

    Projection: GP 70, G 13, A 24, 37 P, -2, 46 PIM

F Tim Connolly, 30, Syracuse, NY, USA

18 of 30

    Last Year: GP 68, G 13, A 29, 42 P, -10, 20 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Connolly had a semi-healthy season with a decent amount of points despite missed playing time.

    This Year

    The hope is that Connolly will not miss a game and will fulfill the tantalizing promise of being a 70-point producer.  If he's capable of gelling with Kessel, the Leafs could hit the jackpot.  However, even if there's no real chemistry he should still register 60-some points.

    Projection: GP 75, G 21, A 47, 68 P, -6, 22 PIM

F Philippe Dupuis, 26, Laval, QC, CAN

19 of 30

    Last Year: GP 74, G 6, A 11, 17 P, -4, 40 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Dupuis is a very solid third- or fourth-liner.  He was a steady performer on a team that was hard to follow last year.  With trades that partially dismantled the Avalanche last year, it was hard at times to continue working hard, but Dupuis soldiered on along with the rest of his teammates.

    This Year

    Dupuis might very well find himself out of an NHL job, at least with Toronto, come season's end.  Especially with the newly acquired Steckel, it will be hard to imagine Dupuis sticking around once Lombardi is healthy as well.

    Projection: GP 50, G 1, A 4, 5 P, -3, 22 PIM

F Matt Frattin, 23, Edmoton, AB, CAN

20 of 30

    Last Year: GP 1, G 0, A 0, 0 P, -1, 0 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Well, he only played one game in the NHL and was a minus-one.  Let's say he needs to improve defensively. 

    No, but on a serious note, he showed a great scoring touch in college last year and hopes he can learn to become a scorer at the NHL level.

    Projection: GP 74, G 16, A 20, 36 P, +2, 16 PIM

F Nazem Kadri, 20, London, ON, CAN

21 of 30

    Last Year: GP 29, G 3, A 9, 12 P, -3, 8 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Kadri showed flashes of brilliance last year, but never fully found his comfort zone in the NHL.  He has definitely shown he can handle the game at the AHL level.

    This Year

    There has been so much hope placed upon this young man's shoulders.  Many fans are starting to feel if he can't do anything this year then he never will.  And while it very well could be true, it's more likely the young forward has another year or two to make it before you could call him a bust.

    Kadri has grown not only as a player but also as a person since he was drafted by the Leafs.  It is my belief that Kadri will step out and start looking like a top-end forward by the end of the year.  I would say keep your eyes peeled for a future line of Kadri, Colborne and Frattin.  Kadri seems to me to be best suited for the wing.

    Projection: GP 72, G 15, A 15, 30 P, -6, 16 PIM

F Matthew Lombardi, 29, Montreal, QC, CAN

22 of 30

    Last Year: GP 2, G 0, A 0, 0 P, -1, 0 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Not much to say except recovering from any type of concussion takes a very long time.

    This Year

    The Leafs acquired him along with Franson.  It might be true that the Leafs were really chasing after Franson in this deal, but taking on Lombardi could prove very beneficial.  Lombardi has speed that few NHLers have, and if he can make a full recovery from his concussion he might be just the biggest bonus in a deal any club has seen in the NHL in a while.

    Projection: GP 65, G 12, A 15, 27 P, +4, 20 PIM

F Joffrey Lupul, 28, Fort Saskatchewan, AB, CAN

23 of 30

    Last Year: GP 54, G 14, A 17, 31 P, -11, 33 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Lupul fit in beautifully alongside Kessel last year, and the two of them seemed to have a bit of chemistry.  Unfortunately for Lupul, it was hard for him to keep pace having missed over a season-and-a-half of hockey.  Even still, he showed he didn't lose his skill or will to work hard and finished the season with all things considered an impressive 31 points.

    This Year

    A lot more will be expected out of Lupul this upcoming campaign.  He's going to be looked upon to raise the play of Kessel and subsequently give Toronto two No. 1 lines on the team.  With all spring and summer to prepare and get in shape for this season, there will be no mercy given to him.

    Projection: GP 82, G 27, A 37, 64 P, -3, 53 PIM

F Jay Rosehill, 26, Olds, AB, CAN

24 of 30

    Last Year: GP 26, G 1, A 2, 3 P, -6, 71 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Rosehill filled in for Mike Brown when he got hurt and did an admiral job doing so.  Rosehill showed heart and toughness each shift he had.

    This Year

    Much like last year, Rosehill will most likely be just a spare part.  However, he will do his best to convince Wilson he should be the regular and someone else the spare part.

    Projection: GP 30, G 1, A 3, 4 P, -8, 90 PIM

F David Steckel, 29, Milwaukee, WI, USA

25 of 30

    Last Year: GP 75, G 6, A 6, 12 P, -6, 26 PIM

    Last Year Stat Prediction: None

    Last Year Prediction: None

    Summary of Last Season

    Wins the faceoffs.  That's pretty much the entirety of his role, and will be with the Leafs as well.

    This Year

    Wilson will look to use him almost exclusively for penalty kill and other important faceoffs.  As much as it was mainly a salary dump for the Devils, the Leafs are very much anticipating being able to make good use of the "limited services," as the Globe and Mail would say, that Steckel offers.

    Projection: GP 56, G 3, A 6, 9 P, -2, 18 PIM


26 of 30

    The Leafs are confident in their goaltending tandem.  The only problem they have with it is Reimer is still very much an unproven goalie.  This is the first time he's been actually called their No. 1 starting goalie.

    Reimer looks to have all the necessary tools to be a No. 1 as well as to overcome any struggles that may pop up over the course of the season.  Still, the question remains: When push comes to shove, will he be able to apply those tools?

    Gustavsson, The Monster, has been anything but monster-like for the Leafs since they acquired him as a free agent.  Heart problems and other health issues have stalled his career.  It remains to be seen whether the Leafs have a 1B goalie as a backup or if they just have a regular backup. 

    As much as the goaltending issue has been solved in Toronto, they still don't have their final answer.  They will know if they do come November.


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    It will be interesting to see how Wilson decides to pair up his defence.  Although there are three brand new faces to Toronto's back end, only two spots are being filled by new faces.  Those two spots are currently held by Liles and Gardiner, with Franson the third face to alternate with Gardiner or some other defenceman.

    The problem Wilson happily has is the glut of NHL-caliber defencemen within the Leafs organization.  With Finger and Lashoff banished to the Marlies, the Leafs have two D-men who have shown and played in many an NHL game.  They also have Aulie, who is another promising young defenceman who finished last season playing alongside Dion Phaneuf and now finds himself with the AHL club.

    With the addition of Liles you add a puck-moving D-man who is also not as often of a liability in his own zone.  Gardiner is very young and will make a ton of mistakes.  Gardiner is one of those type of D-men who will be a liability nearly every night.  Franson deserves a chance to show what he has.  People will be surprised to find out he is a very good all-around D-man and could very well supplant Komisarek off the blue line come season's end.

    There's really no way of telling how Toronto's defence corps will respond to each other, but either way a healthy Phaneuf for an entire season should yield significant enough results that there should be no worries for their back end.


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    The Leafs offence was pretty well the Grabovski line and that's it.  Kessel provided good goal scoring but was too sporadic.  With the players Burke acquired since last January, the Leafs hope they will now have two lines that will produce offence on a regular basis.

    As to the Leafs' bottom two lines, there's not really anything set in stone except that Armstrong and Bozak will be playing together on the third line and two other people will play alongside Orr on the fourth.  As to those three spots, they will most likely be revolving doors all season long.

    Much of Kessel's and Lupul's success will rely heavily on how well Connolly can feed them the puck.  With both Kessel and Lupul liking to shoot first and ask questions later, it might be hard if no one feeds them the puck.

    In the end, there are three questions the Leafs need to answer on offence.

    1. Can the Grabovski line rekindle and repeat the year they had?

    2. Will Kessel finally find a solid playmaker centre in Connolly?

    3. Can the Leafs' third and fourth lines match up against the rest of the Eastern Conference?

Special Teams

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    Power Play

    With the addition of Liles, they now have a very solid quarterback to take charge on the ice.  Liles should also be able to feed Phaneuf's big slap shot.  There's no need to worry about double-shifting Liles on the second unit due to the fact the young Gardiner is more than adept at handling the playmaking on the power play. 

    The Leafs should move up in the ranks with their power play, but even still don't expect them to be in the top five or anything.

    Penalty Kill

    The Leafs have a top faceoff man now in Steckel and will look to use him often on the draw on the penalty kill.  Possession of course is key to any penalty-killing unit, and getting off the draw is huge.

    With the arrival of Reimer and a few new faces on defense, the Leafs should be able to improve from last year's poor display.  All the same, don't expect a huge jump up the penalty kill rankings. 

Summary and Team Prediction

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    Burke is expecting this team to make the playoffs.  The goal is making the playoffs and anything less is complete failure.

    My prediction is Toronto squeaks into the playoffs in eighth place.  I also say at their best they will finish seventh and at their worst 10th.  Anything else will be very surprising (both ways!).

    The biggest stumbling block for the Leafs is that they are in possibly the toughest division in the Eastern Conference with the Bruins, Montreal and Buffalo all ahead of them. With a total of 18 games against those three teams, the Leafs will have to perform well against them; otherwise any hope of making the playoffs decreases significantly.

    Note to Brian Burke: Tell me next time when you're going to make a trade right before opening day; it's hard having to add another player in at the last minute.

    Hope you enjoyed the read and enjoy the start of the NHL regular season!