When it comes to having fun, a roller coaster is above all one of the best. I think someone needs to tell the forwards on the Toronto Maple Leafs that the same doesn't apply to a roller coaster of a season.
As it stands the Leafs are being led by a defenseman in points. Of course Tomas Kaberle is a very offensive player, but no team should ever be led by a d-man if you want to win a Stanley Cup.
There really are no top 6 forwards on the team aside from Kessel and Hagman. And both have experienced long and painful slumps throughout the season.
Niklas Hagman has been on the top of the roller coaster the last 5 games with 4 goals and 2 assists. And he's on pace to break his career high of 27 goals; right now he has 20.
There is no doubt that Phil Kessel is a top 6 forward. Even with missing the more than 10 games AND going through a 10 game slump he still has 31 points in 42 games. And it is very likely that he'll break the 20 goal mark. In the last 5 games he's got only 1 goal, but does have 3 assists.
After those 2 players there isn't many more on the team worthy of top 6 minutes. Matt Stajan has been very good filling into a top 6 role and is only 4 points back of the team lead...however he does only have 38 points in 53 games. And that's a statistic that really hurts the Leafs, there is no player on the team playing at a point per game pace for any length of time. As much as Matt has stepped it up and taken on a lot more responsibility without Sundin and Antropov, there is no question that he is not top 6 material. And it wouldn't surprise me if he's gone by deadline day. In the last 5 games he has only 2 goals and 1 assist...not exactly top 6 production.
The other big name that is supposed to be filling in up front is of course Alexei Ponikarovsky. In the last 5 he has 3 goals and 3 assists. Aside from Ian White Poni has been one of the more reliable, and consistent players on the Leafs team. He could very well surpass his career high of 23 goals, right now he's sitting at 18. Poni isn't a top line player, but on a team that gives up as many goals as Toronto does, it says a lot about his value to be a +3 on the season.
Other than those 4 players it's been like a line-up to the roller coaster. Players make it in for a few games and get taken out and are standing back in line waiting for another ride. I suppose there is a little bit of a bright future after seeing how well Tyler Bozak has played, however there is nobody other than him who is ready to stay on the ride permanently.
There's no question that the playoffs are out of the picture at this point. There is almost nothing that can be done aside from multiple 5 or 6 game winning streaks from here on out.
There are a few contracts that are going to not be re-signed after this year is over and hopefully it gives a chance for younger players to be playing a bit more. Like I said nobody is fully ready for the NHL other than Tyler Bozak, in my opinion, but bringing up a few more like Hanson, Stalberg, and Kadri next year for lengthy stints can't do anymore damage to the franchise than what was done over this season.
Here's hoping that somebody can figure out the curse that hovers over Toronto Sports teams.
There is still 2 more parts to my roller coaster comparison to come. One of which will be a look at the defense, the other a look at the bottom 6 forwards (which sadly will have more players to talk about than the top 6).
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