The Toronto Maple Leafs face the Montreal Canadians tomorrow to help kick of the regular season of the NHL. So before the players get going, I got going on my annual Maple Leafs season preview report, where I have covered the forwards, defense and goalies for the Maple Leafs. And to all you crazy Maple Leaf and hockey fans, be sure to follow me on twitter @thejazlive Looking forward to seeing you all at the rink this year.
1st Line: LW Joffrey Lupul, C Tim Connolly, RW Phil Kessel
2nd Line: LW Clarke MacArthur, C Mikhail Grabovski, RW Nikolai Kulemin
3rd Line: LW Matt Frattin, C Matthew Lombardi, RW Colby Armstrong
4th Line: LW Mike Brown, C Tyler Bozak, RW Colton Orr
The one thing all Maple Leafs fan like about our forwards last season was the success of the Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolia Kulemin line. They were the club’s most reliable line and last season’s result saw MacArthur earn a multi-year contract, Kulemin had his first 30 goal season and Grabovski had a career year with 58 points.
Another question on Maple Leaf fans hearts this season is with the addition of Tim Connolly, can he help spike Phil Kessel’s point total to break 70 points and move into the category of an elite NHL winger? Well only time will tell.
Maple Leafs top prospect Nazem Kadri is out for at least a week or two because of an injury, so college star Matt Frattin (who has impressed me) will take his place on the third line. Matthew Lombardi was another shocker in the last couple days, as Lombardi has been clear to play and now will start the season either as the 3rd or 4th line center.
1) Luke Schenn
2) John-Michael Liles
3) Dion Phaneuf
4) Mike Komisarek
5) Jake Gardiner
6) Carl Gunnarsson
7) Cody Franson
I think the most intriguing part to the Maple Leafs training camp and pre-season is how their defence will shape up. The Leafs defense grew in size when Keith Aulie was promoted last year. But Burke continues with his philosophy by building from the net out. This is where he traded for 6′ 5″ Cody Franson. Then J-M Liles came from Colorado via trade, to replace Tomas Kaberle after his 12 years of service in Toronto. We should see that Liles can be more productive than Kaberle on the power play this season.
Some of the on the cusp players for the maple leafs this season are; Mike Komisarek who needs to simplify his game to get back to being a top four defenseman. Aulie had a great rookie season but he is the odd man out this time around; already sent to the minors. I know a lot of you are upset of that result. But the leafs best defensive prospect Jake Gardiner played magnificent in training camp and pre-season, therefore he deserves to start the season with the parent club. Overall I like the quality of the Maple Leafs defense more than the quality that is their of the forwards.
1) James Reimer
2) Jonas Gustavsson
The one question that I think all Maple Leaf fans are asking is that can James Reimer repeat what he did last spring? He looks like he can be a number one, his style and work ethic can get him there. I just need a 2nd season from Reimer that shows improvement from that last season, then I will believe in him a lot more. But he did sign a new contract; not a wealthy contract, but at least the Toronto media cannot slay him that he is not producing up to his new contact.
Reimer I would like to see him to play 60 games this season at most. He’s a young stud and I think he should be gradually brought into a number 1 goalie work load. Meaning Jonas Gustavsson should be in the mix for 20 games, if he is healthy. Although I would not be surprise if the Gustavsson experiment fails in the last year of his contract and Brian Burkes signs a veteran backup goalie for the rest of the year.