Gunnarsson Will Shoulder the Load

Bleacher ReportContributor IMay 8, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 28:  Carl Gunnarsson #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs is checked into the boards by the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on March 28, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Leafs 5-4 in a shootout.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

I’m going to start eluding to the Kaberle situation as simply “the situation.”

The situation is simply that someone has to go. Kaberle, Beauchemin, someone is hittin’ the dusty trail. So now who’s got take the load? None other than “Mr. Wonderful” Carl Gunnarsson.

I stole that from Phil Davis of the UFC, but they can share it.

With a puck mover leaving town, Gunnarsson will take on the brunt of offensive duties for the Leafs defense corps. Can he do it? I don’t see why not.

The Gunner gathered up a solid 15 points over half the season, and you know what? that averages over a full season so I won’t bother. A plus eight on the second worst team in hockey is something that catches my eye as well.

Tomas Kaberle had 49 points with a minus 16, so Gunnarsson will surely try to build on his points total next season, and at least look to hit the forty mark. I think he can.

Gunnarson was almost on pace to equal Dion Phaneuf’s point total for 2009-11. I expect both to improve their numbers.

“The captain of the biggest franchise in NHL history”

If that title doesn’t put fire under your ass to put up numbers, nothing will. Phaneuf will respond in a big way next season, both on the ice and on the score sheet. I have a feeling Pierre McGuire might just lose his mind with some of the hits Phaneuf is gonna drop on us next year.

Where Phaneuf and Gunnarsson differ is their ability with the puck. Dion is no liability by any means, but Gunnarsson exhibits the skills of a smoother puck handler with better vision looking up ice. Phaneuf is a power player, Gunnarsson shows a little more finesse. Both are integral in the back-end contributing to any Leafs success.

And I guess that’s what it really comes down to. Any way you break it down, whether Gunnarsson effectively fills Kaberle’s role or not, there’s no denying that he’s established himself as a very important player for the Maple Leafs going forward.

Phaneuf, Kaberle, and Beauchemin were the only Leafs to average more ice-time than Gunnarsson last season. So with No. 15 possibly leaving town, Gunnarsson moves into No. 3 for logging minutes automatically.

Gunnarsson will likely see the ice more often than Luke Schenn or Mike Komisarek. I could even see him overtaking Beauchemin for minutes if he can consistently add offense and keep a plus rating.

This is all relative to what Ron Wilson has up his sleeve from game to game, but you get the feeling that Gunnarsson will have to be on the ice to settle things down. If not, who will?

Email maplestirup@gmail.com


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