2011-12 Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

Posted: September 27, 2011 by Realdeal in Season Preview, Toronto Maple Leafs
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last season: 37-34-11, 85 points, 4th in Northeast, missed playoffs.

Key Additions: C Tim Connolly, C Phillippe Dupuis, D Cody Franson, D John-Michael Liles, C Matt Lombardi

Key Losses: C Tim Brent, G Jean-Sebastian Giguere, C Christian Hanson, D Brett Lebda

Offense: The Leafs top line consists of Phil Kessel (32 goals, career high 64 points), Joffrey Lupul, who scored 9 goals in 28 games after being traded to Toronto last season and newcomer Tim Connolly. The injury concerns surround Connolly, but he’s been relatively healthy the past two seasons. The second unit may even be better than the first. Mikhail Grabovski (29-29-58) centers 30 goal scorer Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur, who posted career highs in goals (21) and points (62).  Youngsters Nazim Kadri and Matt Frattin will battle for playing time.  Tyler Bozak (15 goals) and Colby Armstrong (8 goals) will solidify the third line.  If Matt Lombardi is healthy, it’ll help the depth.

Defense: Captain Dion Phaneuf leads the defense. Years away from posting 60 points, Phaneuf is still one of the premier physical defensemen in the league, registering 186 hits.  Newly resigned Luke Schenn finished among NHL leaders in both hits (251, 8th) and blocked shots (168, 12th).  Big Cody Franson and his shot are a nice addition from Nashville.  John-Michael Liles was acquired from Colorado, bringing his powerplay experience (18 PPP last year).  Training camp surprise Jake Gardiner is not making the Leafs’ cuts any easier.

Goaltending: James Reimer came out of nowhere to win 20 games and impressed the Leafs enough to not pursue a goalie in the offseason and to name him the #1 goalie heading into the season. The question with Reimer is, can he continue his good play into this season?  This is a kid with only 37 games of NHL experience.  His backup is Jonas “the Monster” Gustavsson.    Gustavsson played in 23 games last season backing up Reimer and J.S. Gigeure, and didn’t fare particularly well.

Standout Player: Phil Kessel
The Leafs may have overpaid for Kessel two years ago, but he’s brought the scoring touch to Toronto.  30 or more goals in the last three years give the team a consistent goal scoring presence.

Prediction: 4th Northwest, 9th East
The Maple Leafs are going to battle for the last playoff spot or two with the Rangers, Devils and Hurricanes.  Playing in the tough Northeast division is going to hurt their playoff chances though.

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