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With the Leafs currently having only 1 more guy to sign and that signing will be completed in the next month or so, really, there's no rush, Luke Schenn might be the next franchise player, what i mean by that is, players who actually stay with there franchise more than 10 yrs...aka Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Steve Yzerman, Ray Bourque types of guys; he seems to love it in Toronto and we all love him, and we are willing to pay and give him the length needed to keep him here and after the Phaneuf era, he will captain this team for the next 15 yrs and lead us to many stan*** *ups! (I dont want to officially say it, but u can fill in the blanks)

With that being said, here is my projected lineup and possibilities for the upcoming 11-12 season....

Goaltenders
1. James Reimer - will need to keep up his stellar play from last yr and will see about 55-60 games this season, he has a long career ahead of him and with the monster healthy, they dont wanna burn him out already.
2. Jonas Gustavsson - when healthy he proved he can be a #1 goalie, he beat out Giguere twice last season before his heart ailment came back, he will receive his opportunity to play in a back up role and with the amount of time he's had to heal and prepare, i believe he will push Reimer all yr, which will benefit the team.
3. Jussi Rynnas - Will be the starter with the Marlies this season along with Ben Scrivens and Mark Owuya sharing back up duties on occasion, he will compete with Monster in training camp but will come up short. Might get his NHL debut if Monsters heart gives up again, or Reimer is over worked.

Centremen
1. Tim Connolly - When healthy he proved he can be almost a point per game type of player, this guy has heart and isnt afraid to go into the corners, Leafs have never had a center with this type of speed, will need to stay healthy of course.
2. Mikhail Grabovski - Staying consistent will be key in his contract year, he put up great numbers last season and shown he can change the tempo of the game in 1 play, sadly, might be great trade bait if no deal is done by deadline time.
3. Matthew Lombardi - Great speed and a playmaker, could be a #1 center but with health not on his side and the need for a #1 penalty killing center, he will need to be on the 3rd line. Majority of his playing time will come on the kill. He needs to fully recover to make any impact.
4. Tyler Bozak - Who woulda thought 2 yrs ago, this college signee would be designated for the 4th line after that amazing short rookie season on the 1st line. While last yr proved that the grind of a full NHL season have affected his stats, look for him to rebound in a limited role and put up some great numbers when given the chance.
5. Marcel Mueller - Played well with the Marlies last year and might be ready to make the jump to the NHL, if Lombardi cant fully recover, look for Mueller to take center on the 4th line. If he makes the team outta camp and there's no room up the middle, he could be move to the wing.
6. Joe Colborne - Might not be NHL ready just yet, Burke praises this kid and his abilities to be a top 6 forward, so another yr in the AHL might be his destiny, he would have to surprise everyone at camp to make this team.
7. Mike Zigomanis - was resigned as a #1 Center for the Marlies, if Leafs run into a lot of injury problems up the middle, he will be recalled, good chance of that given Connolly and Lombardi's recent history and with the possible trading options the Leafs hold with Mikhail Grabovski.

Wingers
1. Phil Kessel - Hopefully goalless droughts as long as last yr dont happen ever again; with Connolly and maybe Lombardi feeding him pucks all day, he wont have that problem. Much needed help up the middle was addressed the best Burkie could do, so now its up to Kessel to use his weapons and put up 40 - 50 goals this yr. WE BELIEVE !
2. Nikolai Kulemin - After doubling his goal totals from the yr before, look for Kule to go higher than the 30 he popped in last season, this guy has improved in all aspects of the game every single yr, and hopefully Burkie can lock him up for long term now, he will get a significant raise as a RFA at end of season if he puts up the same or greater numbers.
3. Joffrey Lupul - After recovering from back surgery, and playing only half a season, he looked great with the leafs, in 28 games he recorded 9G and 9A respectively. Being completely healthy, he can be a 20+ goal scorer if he sees time on the power play.
4. Clarke Macarthur - 2 more yrs as a leaf with the contract he deserves should pay off in motivating him to do better, yes i said it! 41 assists last season led the team, and this yr look for that number to go up with Kulemin getting better and Grabovski not afraid to shoot the puck, Macarthur creates space for those 2 to destroy the mesh.
5. Nazem Kadri - First full season in Leaf land will have its ups and downs, hopefully he got those outta the way last season, look for Kadri to see time with Connolly and Kessel on the 1st line, hes a fantastic playmaker and can dish the puck as good as anyone on the team, i say 10 goals, 30 assists, as a consistent 1st liner with ample amount of power play time, sounds respectable to me.
6. Colby Armstrong - Wont reach 20 goals again playing on the 3rd line, but will kill penalties and make some amazing plays in the shootout, hopefully a healthy season and stroke of good luck is in his cards for the upcoming season and not the latter.
7. Mike Brown - Great speed and ability to kill penalties, will fight when needed too. Grit, heart and hussle is how to explain Brown, great 3 yr deal at a cheap rate to go with it, will play the 4th line with Bozak and kill penalties.
8. Colton Orr - Burke said he has fully recovered from his season ending concussion thanks to George Parros, oh well, with Brown being better than Orr and cheaper, even if Orr cant play im not worried, if he does, itll be with Bozak and Brown on the 4th line.
9. Jay Rosehill - A young grinder with grit and hussle, he puts up decent offensive numbers in the AHL but cant bring that (probably not asked to bring that) type of offense to the NHL, with a list of capable "fighters" on the team, his impact is minimal and will be used in rival games or when Orr cant get out of the quiet room and Brown is stitching himself back together.
10. Matt Frattin - College signee played one game with the Leafs last season and came really close to his 1st NHL goal, also had 5 shots on net. He has great talent and will contend for a spot out of training camp.
11. Joey Crabb - Recently resigned to a 1 yr deal will need to show again his skills he possessed when making the team mid way through the last season, he has tremendous hands and speed. Made a positive impact with the team last season in the 48 games he played. Will make the team if the injury bug bites again this year.
12. Daryl Boyce - Also resigned to a 1 yr deal. Has great heart and grit, can keep up with the top players in the league and shut them down, but the amount of stitches received last yr were greater than the amount of minutes he played in each game on the 4th line. Will be recalled when needed.
13. Tyler Brenner - Played in 8 games for the Marlies late last season and put up 6 pts. Made immediate impact and will for the upcoming yr, might need a miracle in training camp to make the team.
14. Luca Caputi - Havnt played much in the NHL since being with Crosby and Co. in Pittsburgh, has potential, but can't perform when recalled, not sure if Wilson will give him another chance, if not, might be trade bait, or just the Marlies top scorer.

Defencemen
1. Dion Phanuef - Power Play specialist and a steam roller in the defensive zone, will need to make the big hits and generate more momentum for the team. Look for an explosive season with 20+ goals; as a flame he scored 20 goals in his rookie yr and had 2 seasons with 17, with John Michael Liles feeding him the puck; it seems realistic.
2. Luke Schenn - Contract yet to be signed but will be eventually. A new contract and a new season will benefit Schenn, hes looking to prove doubters wrong after his steller yr defensively and offensively. Look for Schenn to put up 10+ goals while having a significant role in the 2nd Power Play unit.
3. John Michael Liles - 1 yr left on his deal of 4.2 million, he loves Toronto already as mentioned in this article here > http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=569711, we would need a home team discount, if not, look for him to be dealt at the deadline if Leafs are not contending or if they plan on bringing 8 dmen along for the ride all season.
4. Cody Franson - Huge dman with huge potential. Did i say "Huge"? Ya, this kid is good, as defensively skilled as Schenn and Phaneuf, he will crack some skulls this season and be a shut down guy against all the opponents #1 lines. Remember the Preds/Canucks Series last season, Sedins who? Ya that was Franson who made them apart of the Where's Waldo franchise.
5. Carl Gunnarsson - Received a 2 yr deal at a reasonable cheap rate of 1.25mill per. He gained strides last season after finding regular playing time with the boot of Kaby and Francois, played well on the power play and can move the puck relatively well.
6. Keith Aulie - Dion's partner in crime looked great being coached by the captain and will return as his d partner for the upcoming season, needs to be more physical and defensively responsible for Dion when he lays out a guy and has a 2 on 1 going the other way. Or a 3 on 1 if Dion missed.
7. Mike Komisarek - In a tough position right now, making 4.5 mill per yr, definitly in the doghouse and might be Jeff Finger all over again, but Burke has too much pride to send him down. Oh wait, he cant be sent down anyways, Komi possesses a No Movement Clause that protects him from being the Marlies captain. He will be traded or will see time when injuries arise.
8. Matt Lashoff - Is ready for more NHL work, but might have to wait til the injury bug bites at least 2 guys in front of him, might be stuck as a reserve and not with the Marlies, hes run out of options and i dont believe Burke will risk sending him down like he did last yr where Burke got lucky and nobody bit on him.
9. Koribian Holzer - Great offensive skill and is NHL ready, but with the depth the leafs have; it might take a while to make it to the big club, but with a trade imminent; he could be in a Leaf uniform in practice and suit during game time.
10. Jake Gardiner - Will need a full yr in the AHL to be big club ready, but with a good camp, he can see the jump during the season, with Liles contract expiring and Komi in the doghouse, he could get a chance, if not, he will put up good numbers in the AHL.

Looking at my review for the upcoming season, u can basically rule out any additions the Leafs may make befoe training camp, but with 8 full time dmen, a trade is in the works, but might only be for prospects and or draft picks. Hopefully Connolly and Lombardi can help with the need for a center who can win faceoffs, pass the puck and kill penalties...im gonna enjoy this season and the success which will follow, thanks for reading.

Mike Doucet
Filed Under:   maple leafs   schenn   toronto   preview   trades   nhl   leafs  
July 27, 2011 10:02 AM ET | Delete
First! Good blog btw
July 27, 2011 10:43 AM ET | Delete
I cant wait to see Connolly play but I dont know that much about him so not sure what were in for. Lombardi I hope makes a complete comeback because he is dangerous everytime he is on the ice. The key for this team is staying healthy upfront. If a few go down to injuries so do our playoff hopes.
July 27, 2011 12:25 PM ET | Delete
there's this guy named 'Doug Gilmore' who would disagree with the Connolly assessment. Also, Cody Franson is NOT a physical defenseman... that is actually the perceived weakness in his game. He is a skilled puckmover and a strong skater... he IS big, but he's about as physical as Carl Gunnarsson (about a hit per game).
July 27, 2011 12:29 PM ET | Delete
Connaly has more talent than the rest of the team, but he is a strange guy. Lets hope he makes it.
July 27, 2011 12:45 PM ET | Delete
All that money the Sabres spent this summer will be wasted because when the time comes Miller will CHOKE and they will be wishing they had their number one center back, but for now we will keep hearing that they are so happy to see him go.
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