Hi all, I am new to the blogging world so bear with me!
I have been a huge leafs fan all my life, but that will not cloud my judgement on how I think they will perform this year (well ok maybe a little bit
. Obviously I would love it,as would any other Leaf fan, for them to end the dreadful stanley cup drought, or even their post-lockout playoff drought, but lets be honest the cup isn't coming anytime soon and the playoffs will be a battle!!
There is reason for hope for the Maple Leafs as Burkie has given us signs for optimism.
Burke has added a few quality young players and proven NHLers to the organization mostly through trades and free agency, and even some draft picks: Bozak, Hanson, Kadri, Gustavsson, Aulie, Versteeg, D'Amigo, Rynass are some that come to mind. He has also added Phaneuf, Sjostrom, Giguere, Veersteeg, Armstrong and Brown, while giving up Stajan, White, Hagman, Mayers, Toskala, Blake, Stalberg, Didomenico and Paradis. Versteeg is the most complete player that we have added this summer his ability to play both offense and defence willl undoubtly help the leafs this year and in the future, although Stalberg looks like he can be a top 6 forward he still has a few years to reach that level. As for the 2 prospects we gave up for him, Didomenico and Paradis, Didomenico looks as if he could be a gem, he was tearing it up in the final regular season games and playoffs after returning from injury but you never know how he will turn out (especially considering the success many QMJHL players have had who couldnt play in the NHL)
. As it is with anything, only time will tell how this will all work out but you even the biggest Leaf Haters have to admit, the leafs are looking way more improved then they did last January 30th, 2010 - the day of the Phaneuf trade, thats when it all started to turn around...
Since the trade and the first game played which was a Feb 2 shutout win against the NJD the leafs came back to respectability. After the trade the leafs record was 13-10-3 good for 29 points in 26 games. If they kept that pace up over a 82 game season it would translate into 41 wins 32 losses and 9 OT losses and 91 Points which would have placed them tied with boston for 6th in the East. Now I know these are just projections and slumps happen and injuries but it is a sign of hope for the 2010-2011 season.
Considering the team after the Phaneuf trade and the recent additions of:
Versteeg (top 6 forward), Armstrong (gritty top 9, 20 plus goal potential) and
Brown (energy guy who can hit). Also the addition of Kadri who can put up decent numbers as a rookie (possibly 35-50 Points) The leafs will undoubtly be improved in the offensive side of the game, not drastically but not 28th in the league.
Along with a healthy Komisarek, punishing leader Phaneuf, slick puck moving Kaberle, the steady presence of Beauchemin, an improving Schenn (who by the way is 235 pounds now, SCARY!) and the potential of Gunnarsson, the leafs once again look like they can improve from 2nd worst in goals against to at least 15-20th at the very worst.
Backstopped by the tandem of former Cup winner and Conn Smyth trophy winner Giguere (who had a very good .920 SV % in 15 games with the leafs) and a constantly improving Gustavsson, the leafs look to have finally solved their goaltending issues.
Overall with the additons to the offense, the very solid blueline and improved goaltending the leafs have the making of a POTENTIAL playoff team. Look, like I said earlier I'm the biggest leaf fan but im not stupid, the leafs DO look even better, withtheir recent additions, then last years team that went 13-10-3 after the trade but anything can happen, but I believe they will be in a fight for a playoff spot right to the finish with a few teams looking to solidify themselves in the east...
The east looks to be even tougher this year with powerhouse's like Pittsburgh and Washington leading the way,the perrenial playoff team the New Jersey Devils, Stanley Cup finalist Philadelphia Flyers, Conference finalist Montreal , along with the improving Boston Bruins, and the Sabres backstopped by the leagues top goalie Miller. That leaves 1 spot left or possibly 2 if montreal cant get its goaltending sorted out. That means Ottawa who lost defensive depth but gained a great offensive D-man, along with improving Islanders and Lightning, the leafs will be fighting for the 7th - 10th spot alongside the rangers and the teams mentioned above so it should be an exciting season to watch.
But all is not lost if they stumble again and are out of the playoff race early, no they do not have their 1st or 2nd picks (which sucks by the way)... They can potentially trade kaberle for some picks and/or prospects (they wont get a top 6 forward unless the team trading for him can sign him long term) and if Gustavsson has proven himself we can trade the soon to be UFA Giguere to a contender who may need some proven goaltending for a cup run (see: chicago, philly, montreal, washington, ottawa, san jose or Los Angeles).
Come October as Leaf's fans, we should be ready to watch a young team competing their hearts out every shift and that my friends is all we can ask for. Until Next time...
** I welcome your own thoughts, comments, criticisms, hopes, prayers (for leafs) and any other hockey talk! **