For the first time in half a decade, The upcoming Maple Leaf season has fans excited. Toronto is buzzing with energy as its inhabitants get ready for what they hope is the beginning of a new era in Leaf Land. The Brian Burke era.
All facets of last years Leafs were lacking. In goal, Toskala was Public Enemy #1 for most of the season, until he handed the reigns over to Martin Gerber when he was shutdown to undergo year ending surgery. The forwards had more success as they were ranked 10th in the League for scoring, but were inconsistent at times. They were led by the likes of Blake, Ponikarovski and Grabovski, all of which had big seasons, and along with some of the younger guys like Kessel, Kulemin, Mitchell, and Tlusty will be counted on again this year. The defense was a real cause for concern last year. the 5th Overall pick in the 2008 Draft; Luke Schenn, was thrown into the Big Leagues head first, and by most accounts preformed admirably. Along with Schenn and Kubina, Kaberle headlined a defense corps that resulted in a League worst 293 goals against.
With all these shortcomings being taken into account when Brian Burke arrived in Toronto, most people-- including myself-- figured that the 09-10 season would be a write-off as he attempted to rebuild this team from the ground up. Burke did not share these feelings. He quickly got to work and now on the the eve of the first regular season game of the year, the team is barely recognizable. With a rebuilt defense that includes the new acquisitions of Beauchemin, Komisarek, and Exelby and a healthy Toskala and Rookie Gustavvson in net, Burke hopes The Leafs will be able to shave off one goal per game against from 3.57 to 2.57 . on offense Burke has turned to youngsters instead of veterans like he did for his defense. Phil Kessel was acquired from Boston for two first round picks and a second rounder and is viewed as the potential lynch-pin for Toronto's offense for years to come. The 2oo9 5th overall pick Nazem Kadri was added, along with free agents Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson. They may not see much action this year, but along with Kessel, Grabovski, Kulemin, Tlusty and Mitchell are seen as the future core of Toronto's offense.
Some of the keys for The Leafs to be successful in reaching their goal of making the playoffs are as follows:
-Toskala must be better then last year. Now that he is healthy he has to prove he is capable of being a number 1 goalie in the NHL
-Gustavvson will probably play at least 20 games this year. This will let Toskala take a breather and if the two goaltenders don't make an effective tandem, it could be a long year.
-Beachemin, Komisarek, Schenn and Kaberle need to play a clean and physical defensive game while occasionally chipping in some points. defense and goaltending will be the keys that unlocks the door to the Playoffs.
-Schenn needs to show he deserves to be in the top 4 on a strong defensive team. Last year it was a given with the weak defense but this year there has been talk of sending him to the Marlies if he cant stay in the top 4. He needs to work on the give-aways and defensive zone coverage, but we must be patient with him as he is only 19, and looks like he will develop into the backbone of Toronto's future defense (and maybe be captain?)
- Grabovski, Ponikarovski, Hagman, and Blake need to once again put up solid numbers and all are expected to pot 20 goals at least as they lead the team offensively.
- Kulemin, Mitchel, and Tlusty need to continue their development if the growth of this team is to continue into the future. Kulemin and Mitchell should both improve on their 30 point rookie seasons while Tlusty hopes to prove he belongs in the NHL.
-Physical play is to be expected from ALL players, not just Orr, Exelby, Mayers, Komisarek ETC, if Burke is to achieve the team toughness he desires. They need to prove as a team they will not be pushed around or allow the goalies to be roughed up.
-Reduce the 293 goals against to 235 at least this would have had them around 15th in the League last year . getting down to Burke's goal of 211 undoubtedly put them in the playoffs if they manage to score at close to last years rate.
-When Kessel comes back from his injury he needs to show why Burke gave up two first round picks for him. 30 goals in 65 games would be commendable.
What do you think are keys to success for the Leafs this year? post in the comment box.
Here's a video, Enjoy: