We don’t need to do a run-through of all the names. The Leafs will piecemeal together a first and second line, and there are some quality names there—at least names with some pedigree (Kessel, Versteeg) and genuine immediate potential (Bozak, Kulemin).
Beyond that, there are some interesting names, such as Sjostrom, some new names, like Armstrong, and some other guys who were already here. Some individuals with a bit of speed; a couple who can kill penalties. But no one who makes older Leaf fans think of when Doug Risebrough and Doug Jarvis (pictured at right) manned the third and fourth lines for the four-time Cup champion Canadiens in the late 1970s. (Jarvis, an outstanding penalty-killer with the Habs and an NHL 'ironman', was actually drafted by the Maple Leafs in 1975, but he was traded away before ever playing a game in Toronto. But that's a story for another day.)
We’re not in that class just yet.
That said, as I indicated, there are some “interesting” names in the bottom-six mix. One of those names is Christian Hanson (who may have caught Brian Burke's attention when he drove to the net in the third period Thursday and ended up in a fight with a Flyer).
Now 24, the former undrafted Notre Dame free agent showed occasional glimpses of something with the Leafs last year. There was, I seem to recall, some early (mostly pre-) season potential on display. Then, time with the Marlies (where he earned almost a point a game, or thereabouts). That was followed by a number of games with the big club at the end of last season.
We shouldn’t pretend there was a lot on display there, but there were good moments, to be sure. He has size and once in a while we saw him use it. He can skate, and everyone now and then he would make a play that, for a young, still emerging NHL player, made you think he had some offensive upside.
At the end of the season I was actually excited that he was named to the U.S. World Championship team. I sensed that, perhaps, he would get minutes and kind of take his game to ‘another level’, as everyone likes to say.
By all accounts he was fine. He played six games for Team
but they struggled as a team and he seemingly did little that was out of the ordinary. USA
So here is a guy that has size, can skate, and has some offensive talent. He clearly won’t be a top-six guy (now), and there may be no guarantee he will even make the squad. But surely he has the ability to be a contributor, if not an impact guy.
And longer term, how good could he be?
This is a question Brian Burke must be asking himself.
As for Ron Wilson, he needs help now. Right now. Can Hanson play himself into real minutes on the third line? Can he use some of his good play at the tail end of last season to be his headwind toward becoming the player the team needs, right now?
Yes, we’re all looking for Christian Hanson. Hopefully he will play like he can, so the Leafs can find him.