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

Report: NHL to Change Regular-Season Tiebreaker

National Hockey League

According to TSN.ca (via ESPN.com) the National Hockey League will change its regular-season tie breaking rule.

The previous tiebreaker saw the team with the most amount of total wins in a tie take over sole possession of their respective position in the standings. For example: if the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils were tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference and each had 102 points, but the Sabres had 45 wins and the Devils had 44, the Sabres would take over sole possession of fourth.

The new tie breaking system is supposed to be implemented in time for the coming season.

With the new system, the team with the most amount of wins, excluding shootout wins, will win the tiebreaker.

The new rule was first proposed by Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson at the general managers meetings in March. The new rule is supposed to make hockey more of a team game, especially considering the new tie breaking system could decide who makes the playoffs and eventually wins the Stanley Cup, which almost happened last season.

After making the playoffs thanks to a shootout victory over the New York Rangers on the last day of the regular-season, the Philadelphia Flyers took the Chicago Blackhawks to six games in the Stanley Cup finals before loosing in overtime.

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

Kaberle’s Father Speaks Out

Tomas Kaberle

Tomas Kaberle may be staying quiet about his situation with the Maple Leafs and coach Ron Wilson, but his father certainly isn’t.

In an interview with Czech hockey magazine Hokej (via Toronto Sun), the elder Kaberle, Frantisek Senior, said he’s surprised that his son is still a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I cannot image how he will get along with coach Wilson, who relies primarily on aggression and stress. That’s not Tomas, he’s a technical type of defender,” said the former member of the Czech national team. “I think that during the course of the year he will be traded to another club. There is only one chance for Toronto to get something back in return for Tomas now. In my opinion, I can’t see Tomas entering a new contract with the Toronto. Not if Ron Wilson continues to be employed there.”

Tomas Kaberle was not traded by Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke before his no-trade clause was reinstated on Sunday, August 15th.

Frantisek Sr. also talked to the magazine about the possibility of Marc Savard becoming a Maple Leaf.

“The problem is his health. He suffered a concussion last season and there is the possibility of a similar blow to his head and it could even end his hockey career. In this regard, such a trade for Toronto would have been very risky,” said Kaberle Sr., who also believes that NHL superstars no longer want to play for the Maple Leafs.

“I have been following Toronto for a long time,” he said.  “I didn’t believe it much in the beginning, but it seems that the best players don’t want to go to this club. The reason is because of the huge pressure from the fans, and especially the media. Not every hockey player is able to deal with it.”

He does, however, believe that his son can put up with the large amount of pressure put on Maple Leaf players.

“I think that Tomas won’t even comment on (trade possibilities) anymore,” he said. “He is content in Toronto with both the club and the city. I still think though that some change would be welcomed.”

Frantisek Kaberle Senior has a lot of hockey experience. Not only did he play for the Czech national team, but he also coached in the elite league in the Czech Republic.

The 32-year-old Tomas has spent his entire career with Toronto, scoring 80 goals and 402 assists. He is known as one of the best defenceman in the National Hockey League but has been listening to trade rumors about himself for the last two years.

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

NHL Tests Potential New Rules at Research and Development Camp

National Hockey League

The NHL has begun testing potential new rules during the research and development camp at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence. Up to 21 potential new rule changes are being tried out, including a new, much wanted, icing rule, called hybrid icing.

With hybrid icing, the risk of major injury is reduced significantly, if not gone.

Hybrid icing is a mix of no-touch and touch icing. When the defending player reaches the faceoff dot before the attacking player, the linesman will blow his whistle.

Lately, the debate about icing has become almost as popular as Tomas Kaberle trade rumors. From staying with touch icing, to making the game less entertaining with no-touch icing, it looks like the NHL may have found the median.

Here is a list of all potential new rules being tested during the National Hockey League research and development camp:

  1. Hybrid icing rule;
  2. No line change for team committing an offside;
  3. Crease reset rule;
  4. Face-off variation (face-off controlled by whistle in place of traditional puck drop);
  5. Overtime: three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on- 2 followed by shootout (5 players per team).
  6. Bigger crease;
  7. Verification goal line (additional line situated behind the goal line);
  8. Wider blue lines;
  9. Line changes zone in front of each bench;
  10. Face-off variations (infringement results in the offending player moving back further, three face-off dots down the middle of the ice);
  11. OT – three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on-2 with long line changes; followed by three shooters per team shootout (if tied after three shots then players who have shot previously can shoot again).
  12. No touch icing;
  13. Team that commits an offside infraction cannot make a line change and face-off is in offending team zone;
  14. Face-off variation: after a face-off violation, opposition center may choose his face-off opponent;
  15. Second referee located off the playing surface;
  16. Delayed penalty rule;
  17. No icing the puck while shorthanded;
  18. OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change) followed by a shootout with five players;
  19. Variations of special teams play;
  20. OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change).

The teams that competed on the ice with the above rules are almost completely made up of Canadian Hockey League players, meaning many NHL general managers, coaches and even scouts attended the tw0-day event, including Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and Senators general manager Brian Murray.

The two-day hockey camp wraps up on Thursday, August 19th in Etobicoke, Ontario.

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

Information from NHL.com was used in this post.