We will all agree this teams trend over the last few years has been pretty much the same and I must say the fans are tired of it. Fans have started to get accustomed to see a team not really improving over the last 5-6 years and offering performance mostly lackluster. The hopes are generally high at the season start and Leafs tickets are always hot, but by Christmas, these same hopes are slowly fading away. Then in the off season, a major trade or two or three occur followed by some free agent signings and then the chemistry has to be rebuilt.
The management doesn’t like it either. Ask if Brian Burke likes to go through the same cycle every season and also off season. He would rather concentrate on contract renewals and development of his young players. Looking at the future, it looks bright. Young players are emerging such as defenseman Jake Gardiner, Hobey Baker award finalist Matt Frattin, Nazem Kadri and goalie James Reimer. Reimer proved last season he could be counted on which triggered the departure of seasoned goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguère.
In recent years they did well with their young players and the draft something President and GM Brian Burke also believes firmly. they also hold in the AHL eventual NHLers such as Joe Colborne and Jesse Blacker. Also emerging from the ranks, right winger and power forward Tyler Biggs drafted 22nd overall in 2011 and Memorial Cup All-Star team member Stuart Percy from Mississauga. Percy was recently returned to his junior team but look for a quick stint in junior.
In view of this season’s roster, there has to be optimism. The talent is definitely there but the team will need to stay healthy first and show consistency. the last two seasons Toronto embarked on a 8 eight games losing streak and that caused the setbacks in each of those seasons. The arrival of Tim Connolly as a free agent may prove to be the shot in the arm Phil Kessel needs to have to put points on the board and potentially have a career season. Combined this offensive power to Mikhail Grabovsky’s gaining in maturity, the signs of a breakout season for Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin, the team may have a very solid top 6.
There is no doubt the defense corps can hurt many teams. They are big, strong and love to hit and pound their opponents. last season, “the old” Dion Phaneuf resurrected from February when was able to put points on the board while playing solid defense. Phaneuf who came from the Calgary Flames in a blockbuster deal in 2009, will undoubtedly be the kingpin of the blue line for the Leafs supported by experienced player such as John-Michael Liles acquired from the Colorado Avalanche and matt Lombardi coming back from concussion. Add to the mix, big Mike Komisarek and Toronto’s defensive brigade is solid. The only factor may be mobility and that’s where Liles, speedy Lombardi and prospect Gardiner may add a nice balance to the mix.
Is this team capable to make the playoffs? It sure is now, there is depth at every key positions and the remaining question is between the pipes. If Reimer can pull a successful season and a performance like he displayed at the World’s last Spring; there is no reason why the “White and Blue” can’t make the playoffs. Get those Toronto Leaf tickets soon and don’t miss the fun!