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Toronto Maple Leafs: In Need of a Bounce Back



blog-0532118001346813755.jpgTuesday September 4th 2012 – If you played on the Toronto Maple Leafs last season chances are you either had an excellent season or a bad one, very few players were in between. Players like Kessel, Lupul, Phaneuf, Grabovski and Gardiner had excellent seasons. Players like Komisarek, Connolly, Kulemin, Liles, Reimer and Cody Franson all had bad years. There were some players who didn’t exactly disappoint (Macarthur,Bozak) but didn’t have a season to brag about either. Phil Kessel led the way for great seasons with 82 points, line mate Lupul also put together a point per game effort totalling 67 in 66 games. The captain Dion Phaneuf rediscovered his offensive game totalling 44 points for the most since 08/09 in Calgary. Grabovski was once again a consistent two way force and put up over 50 points for the second consecutive season. Jake Gardiner constantly made headlines for showing poise and skill beyond his years for a superb rookie campaign.

It was all downhill from there in Leaf land. The big off season acquisition Tim Connolly made a good first impression potting 12 points in his first 12 games, but got injured and upon return just wasn’t an effective offensive force. Connolly ended the season with 36 points in 70 games his worse point total since 2003. Though Nikolai Kulemin continued to be a good two way player he was looking to build on his 30 goal 57 points in 10/11, he constantly had trouble finding the back of the net putting up just 7 goals and 28 points in 70 games, the worst totals of his career. Mike Komisarek certainly didn’t enter the season with high expectations but constantly being a healthy scratch and 1 goal 5 points and a career worse – 13 in 45 games was disappointing for any defenseman let alone one that makes 4.5M. Cody Franson did not disappoint as badly as the others as he put up 21 points in 57 games but constantly found him mismanaged by then coach Ron Wilson. John Michael Liles had two very different halves to his season. Liles found himself contributing regularly during the first half of the season and thats when the Leafs had the most success, a headshot by Gaustad left Liles with a concussion and he just wasn’t the same player when he returned from the injury. To make it worse Brian Burke resigned Liles to a 4 year 15.5M contract before seeing how Liles would play after his concussion. Lastly there was James Reimer, Optimus Reim, The Reiminister, Good Ol’ JR (Ok no one called him that) He was one of the reasons for hope after 2010/11 and 5 games into this past season he also suffered a concussion and was out for an extended period of time. Reimer went 14-14-4 with a .900 sv % and a 3.10 GAA. So who can bounce back and who should we just move on from?

James Reimer has been training hard all summer and seems determined to re-establish himself as a legitimate #1 goalie in the NHL. His training and focus has apparently led GM Brian Burke to not pursue other options in net as aggressively. Nikolai Kulemin seems the safest bet to have a bounce back campaign, he may not score 30 again but his a proven third liner who can put up 15-20 goals a season and is responsible in his own end. Cody Franson should do better under Carlyle as he could be sculpted into a Beauchamin type that Carlyle had with the Ducks. Liles remains a question mark because of how drastically his game seemed affected after he returned from injury. Connolly and Komisarek are two players who you should not expect much from this coming season, I believe Komisarek can make himself a good third pairing/penalty killer but his days of being a top 4 D man are over. Connolly brings alot of question marks into his game such as inconsistent, injury prone, lack of defensive responsibility to remain a top 6 forward with the leafs expect around 40 points for him. Brian Burke’s lack of moves this summer could prove costly if these players cannot bounce back, only time will tell.

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Brian Burke’s lack of moves this summer could prove costly if these players cannot bounce back

hmmm.....skipping over JVR is that easy eh? Then I think the Flyers got the better end of that trade. :)

IF JVR can play center decently then there is a lot less pressure on Connolly.

Maybe move Connolly to wing. I expect a better year from Bozak. As for Reimer, yeah, I think there is a lot of pressure on the guy, especially since they did not sign or trade for a veteran goaltender to back him up.

I think the biggest difference though in this team will come from the coaching of Carlyle. He will demand a tighter checking game. This team though needs to start the season strong, which will build some much needed confidence.

In a shortened season there is less room for error and injury.....who knows?, I wouldn't count any team out of making the playoffs.

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Wait? Connolly got injured and was never the same for the rest of the season?

Never saw that coming...

I have yet to see anything resembling any sort of coherent vision for what the Leafs want to be (aside from a profitable hockey team). Everybody that comes in (except JVR apparently) is going to be the greatest biggest best key to success ever.

And still no post-lockout playoff and no Cup in a league with more than six teams.

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JVR could be like when you boys added Versteeg, a solid player who was a square peg in a round hole. Uniting the Schenn boys was a good move for Philly, personally I think JVR will have a good career, and Philly overpaid. That said, if Toronto plays around with a young players head and tries to convert him to a fish out of water position, JVR could be a wreck in Toronto, just another casualty of Brian Burke, who will find it all when he moves to his next team.

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