Hockey World Blog

2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

Key Offseason Additions: Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, John Michael-Liles, Cody Franson

Key Offseason Losses: Kris Versteeg, Jean-Sebastian Giguere

Last Season Ranking: 10th in East

Offense: The Toronto Maples Leafs have made two impressive off-season additions that should greatly foster their offensive talent.

First, Tim Connolly. Connolly is a top line center who battled injuries last year with the Buffalo Sabres. With a healthy season, Connolly could set up winger Phil Kessel, easily combining for over 120 points. The key though, if Connolly can stay healthy.

The second addition, which many will underrate, is that of Matthew Lombardi. Lombardi has had a really up and down career, with his 2009-2010 season with the Phoenix Coyotes a career high of 19 goals, 34 assists to total 53 points. But, like Connolly, the key is for him to stay healthy. Lombardi missed nearly all of last season with a concussion. Concussion symptoms are no joke, Sidney Crosby has brought light to that.

The remainder of the supporting cast is surprisingly good. Joffrey Lupul looks to bounce back from back problems, Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur both look to better last year’s career high performances, and young talents Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri look to balance out the third line with talented depth.

Defense: General Manager Brian Burke did a good job to better the defense with veteran John-Michael Lieles and young talent Cody Franson. Last year’s seasons combined totaled 14 goals and 61 assists. The stats do not lie, both players can move the puck.

Toronto's fate rests on the hands of goaltender James Reimer. Will he follow the sophomore curse?

The additions will put a much needed pressure on big name player Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf had trouble in Calgary before coming to Toronto, often perceived as an arrogant player. It is still a debate if he is all that he hyped up to be, but with only 8 goals and 22 assists last year, expect him to step up his game this upcoming season.

Luke Schenn is coming into his 4th season with the Maple Leafs and will most likely improve upon his 5 goals and 17 assists last year. Schenn is a young, big 6′-2″ defender who has some hands and some speed. Possibly paired with Phaneuf, his stock is rising in playoff pools. Sure he won’t be your top defender, but looking for some depth, he will most likely put up 25 assists this year.

Goaltending: If it is one thing that the Maple Leafs are lacking it is goaltending. Losing veteran Jean-Sebastian Giguere is going to hurt, even if he only did put up a 11-11-4 record and a 2.87 goals against average. His veteran presence will be missed, especially if James Reimer has to carry the load.

Reimer last year had a remarkable rookie season with a 20-10-5 season and a 2.60 goals against average. The problem now is that he is in his sophomore year, and if anyone knows anything, the second year for goaltenders tend to take nose dives.

Playing backup will be big 6’3″ Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson has the talent to be a great goaltender, but last seasons 13 loses trumping his 6 wins, he needs to step it up. Throwing out a wild prediction, factoring in Reimer’s sophomore status, Gustavsson will become the number 1 goalie.

HWB Playoff Prediction: Not playoff bound. It is the Leafs after all.


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