Toronto Maple Leafs: Why The 2010-2011 Season Won’t Be Like Any Other

2010-2011 will be an exciting season for the Leafs and it's fans

Never before has anyone ever seen a season that may be about to go down for the Toronto Maple Leafs. With hundreds of questions, multiple rookies and new players, the potential to make the playoffs is finally there and an offence that could either be good or horrific, the coming season will be nothing short of interesting and exciting.

If the Leafs plan on making the playoffs in 2011, the team’s goaltending duo of Jonas Gustavsson and Jean-Sebastien Giguere will need to be absolutely outstanding. Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin will also need to turn in good seasons on the back-end, something that they didn’t do in 2009-2010, granted Komisarek on played in 34 games.

Entering the 2010-2011 season, there is more than just a few questions surrounding the Maple Leafs. Here are just some of them:

Will the Leafs finally make the playoffs?

Will Tyler Bozak be able to score 50 points?

Will Kris Versteeg flourish with more ice time in Toronto?

Will Phil Kessel score 40 goals?

Will the penalty kill be better?

Will the power play be better?

Will Nazem Kadri make the team? How well will he play if he does?

Fans and writers alike will look for those questions to be answered during the season. Although a case could be made that some of them have already been answered, we’ll have to wait.

The Leafs finally have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in years. It has been five seasons since the team has last made the playoffs in 2004, the year before the extremely infamous lockout.

However, if the Leafs want to make the playoffs they’re going to need the young and new players to live up to expectations.

This means 60+ points from Kris Versteeg, 35-40 points and an intimidating presence from Colby Armstrong and 40 points from Nazem Kadri (if he plays a full season). Luca Caputi, who has had a great pre-season, will be expected to score at least 15 goals this season, while Tyler Bozak, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin will all be looked at to put up at least 50, 55 and 45 points respectively.

Perhaps the biggest star in the Leafs lineup, Phil Kessel, will be expected to score 40 goals. Kessel has twice scored 30 or more goals, once with the Bruins (36) and once with the Maple Leafs (30). With a play maker like Bozak, who scored 27 points in 37 games last season, 40 goals from the 6’0″, 202 lbs sniper finally seems like a reality in Toronto.

Versteeg, Armstrong, Kadri, Caputi, Bozak, Grabovski, Kulemin and Kessel will all play a huge role in proving everyone wrong about the Leafs offence. As of now, almost everyone is writing off the Leafs offensive skill, saying that the team’s top two lines are either too weak in size and strength, too weak in skill or not experienced enough.

Although it’s obvious the Leafs still need another top-six forward, preferably a winger, the offence could still prove to be good, not great.

Ron Wilson and company will also look for improved seasons from plenty defencemen, including Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Carl Gunnarsson, Luke Schenn.

Komisarek, who didn’t score a goal but did score four assists in 2009-2010, played in just 34 games due to a shoulder injury. In those 34 games, he also posted a +/- rating of -9. If Komisarek can return to form this season, he will be looked at as a huge part of how the Leafs played.

Francois Beauchemin, meanwhile, played in all 82 games, but also struggled to play the way he was known for in Anaheim. Scoring five goals and 21 assists for a total of 26 points, the 30-year-old’s offensive statistics were right around where they normally are. His plus/minus, however, was not. With a rating of -13, Beauchemin was often picked on by fans and the media when the Leafs were in the midst of a bad skid.

As for Gunnarsson, and Schenn, the raised expectations having to do with nothing but development. Even though they all went through rough patches last season, all three were impressive.

Gunnarsson began playing for the big club midway through the season. He appeared in 43 games, scoring three goals and 12 assists while going +8. Schenn, a fellow defenceman, scored 17 of his 31-career points last season, playing in all but two games.

Goalie Jonas Gustavsson is also expected to improve upon a strong rookie campaign.

Gustavsson was known for big time saves and keeping the Leafs in games last season, but he was also very inconsistent. The Monster is definitely capable of improving upon his 2009-2010 goals against average of 2.87 and save percentage of .902. He also has a great veteran goalie to learn from in JS Giguere.

Giguere, who will be entering his 13th NHL season, is likely to see split time, sharing the duties with Gustavsson. The 33-year-old native of Montreal, Quebec played in 35 games last season for the Ducks and Maple Leafs, with against average of 2.85 and a save percentage of .907.

As you can see, the Maple Leafs are set when it comes to goaltending and defence this season. If the offence can significantly improve upon the 210 goals they scored last season and a league-worst %14 power play conversion rate, this young team is destined to make the playoffs.

If the offence is just as good as or worse than last season, however, then don’t expect the Leafs to be any higher than 12th in the Eastern Conference standings after all 82 games.

Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl.

lukas@gacksports.com

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Toronto Maple Leafs Cut Roster By 17 Players

Wayne Primeau was one of 17 players cut by the Maple Leafs on Sunday

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one step closer to having decided their opening day roster, according to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.

Following the team’s fifth pre-season game on Saturday, a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Leafs announced the latest list of roster cuts. The following players will not be playing for the Maple Leafs when the season opens on October 7th:

Jussi Rynnas – AHL

Wayne Primeau – released

Ben Scrivens – AHL

Keith Aulie – AHL

Jesse Blacker – junior

Brad Ross – junior

Andrew Crescenzi – junior

Mike Brennan – AHL

Simon Gysbers – AHL

Korbinian Holzer – AHL

Juraj Mikus – AHL

Jerry D’Amigo – AHL

Brayden Irwin – AHL

Marcel Mueller – AHL

Robert Slaney – AHL

Greg Scott – AHL

The Maple Leafs now have three goalies, 17 forwards and 10 defencemen remaining.

Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl.

lukas@gacksports.com

Three Reasons Why Luke Schenn Will Earn A Big Raise

Luke Schenn is in line for a big raise

He has been tagged as the franchise player by many, and it may be just about time to give him the contract that fits that label.

With two full National Hockey League seasons under his belt, 20-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn is no longer short on experience, and with the way he has been playing, it may be about time that he earns a hefty raise, whether it’s with the Maple Leafs or not.

Here are three reasons why Luke Schenn has a good shot at receiving a lucrative contract come July 1, 2011:

Development

Both of those years, he has been learning from a coach with a great reputation in Ron Wilson. Not to mention the likes of Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle and Dion Phaneuf.

When Phaneuf came to Toronto, he made everyone around him better. Now that he is captain, he will be expected to continue doing exactly what he was, which means great things for the development of Schenn.

Supporting cast

The Maple Leafs log jam on defence has been well documented by the media, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing, especially for Schenn. As long as he makes the team, which seems more than likely to happen, he will have a great supporting cast to work with, only helping him to play better and become a better defenceman, both on the defensive side of things and the offensive side.

Leafs forwards, meanwhile, should help the normally stay-at-home defenceman rack up the points and assists. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should expect Schenn to put up 30+ points, but with the likes of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Kris Versteeg and possibly Nazem Kadri up front, the 6-foot-2, 215 pound Schenn shouldn’t lack offensive numbers this season.

Contract season

The native of Saskatoon will be entering his contract year in 2010-2011, which could mean either great or bad news. Sometimes players thrive when they are in the final year of their contract, knowing that a big season could earn them a hefty raise come July 1. Some, however, are the exact opposite, as they try to do too much, ultimately forcing them to make poor decisions on and off the ice.

Schenn has had two good seasons in the league, one of them was outstanding considering that he was a rookie in a hockey mad Toronto market. In 2009-10, his statistics improved drastically. Scoring five goals, three more than his previous total of two, and 12 assists for a total of 17 points, three more points than his previous total of 14, his second season was nothing short of impressive.

Schenn’s gritty and tough style of play has made players all over the league aware of when he’s on the ice, something that every team wants from every single one of its players.

With the way he has played in his first two seasons, all signs point towards a good, if not great, contract season for Schenn.

So just how much money and how many years should he receive? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see how this season goes for the young NHLer.

**You can contact Lukas by e-mail at lukas@gacksports.com and follow him on Twitter @lukas_nhl.

Fight Breaks Out At Maple Leafs Training Camp

Toronto Maple Leafs

Things are already heating up at the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp.

After watching teammate Carl Gunnarson get hit from behind by tough guy Jay Rosehill on Saturday, Michael Liambas decided it was time to take matters into his own hands, by dropping the gloves with Rosehill. According to the Canadian Press, the fight lasted about 15 seconds while teammates gathered around to watch the spirited tilt.

“Nobody got hurt and it showed that we’re pretty intense in practice,” coach Ron Wilson said. “For some guys they have to do it in a scrimmage because they’re not going to get into exhibition games.”

This coming after Wilson told his players not to fight at training camp.

After being invited by the Maple Leafs to the team’s rookie tournament last week, Liambas was a late addition to the team’s training camp. According to Wilson, “he’s a very long shot.”

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him, he pays attention, he works in practice and he’s been physical without going over the top,” Wilson added.

If Liambas doesn’t make the Maple Leafs, there is still a possibility that he could play for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, also located in Toronto.

“There’s some options, yeah,” said Liambis. “We’ll see what happens. I’m not trying to think about any of that stuff right now. I’m here, I’m in the moment and I’m going to do as best as I can.”

The 21-year-old Liambas was suspended by the Ontario Hockey League for the remainder of the 2009-2010 season last October, after leaving Kitchener Rangers defenceman Ben Fanelli lying on the ice with a fractured skull.

Liambas played in 124 regular season games in the OHL before his junior career ended. In those 124 games, he scored just five goals and eight assists, while tallying 357 penalty minutes. He was never drafted by an NHL team.

**You can contact Lukas by e-mail at lukas@gacksports.com and follow him on Twitter @lukas_nhl.

Wayne Primeau Wants Back on the Leafs: Does He Fit In?

Wayne Primeau

35-year-old National Hockey League veteran Wayne Primeau wants to return to the National Hockey League for the 2010-2011 season, which would be his 16th in the League, according to TheFourthPeriod.com (via Toronto Sun).

“I still feel I can play and contribute to a team,” Primeau told the Sun. “Hopefully someone steps forward and gives me a chance.”

“My ultimate wish is to come back to Toronto for another season and be a veteran (presence) to help the younger guys. But it seems to be looking dimmer and dimmer as the days go on.”

With the Maple Leafs becoming a younger team each year and very unlikely to win the Stanley Cup this season, is it really fitting for a 15-year veteran of the League who has never won a Stanley Cup to return to Toronto?

No. The Maple Leafs have too many bottom-six forwards (which Primeau is) for him to fit in on the roster. If he was to play on the wing, he still wouldn’t fit in with the bottom six. Colby Armstrong, Luca Caputi, Colton Orr, Mike Brown and Fredrick Sjostrom all have more important roles with the Maple Leafs, and all add just as much grit, if not more.

At age 35, if Primeau were to return to the Maple Leafs, he would be the oldest player on the roster (current oldest player is Jean-Sebastien Giguere at age 33) and the oldest forward on the roster by seven years.

Not just that, but the signing of Primeau would also take away crucial cap space from general manager Brian Burke, who is currently trying to use that cap space, and possibly Tomas Kaberle, to fill the forward hole in the Maple Leafs lineup.

With that being said, not only would returning to Toronto be a poor career decision by Primeau, but it would also be a poor decision by Maple Leafs manager Brian Burke, who already has enough veterans on the roster.

Primeau has scored just 194 points (69 goals, 125 assists) in 774-career regular-season games. Three of those goals and five of those assists came in 54 games with the Maple Leafs in 2009-2010. He was acquired from the Calgary Flames in July of 2009 along with a 2011 second round draft pick for Anton Stralman, Colin Stuart and a 2012 seventh round draft pick.

**Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas@gacksports.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.