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The Maple Leafs: Paralysis through analysis? 20 questions looking forward

Thank you to those who have become regular visitors to this site.  One of the rewarding aspects of hosting Vintage Leaf Memories is the respectful tone of the discussion here.  By and large the comments I receive are thoughtful and relate to the issues that I raise on occasion or are appreciative with regard to the posts I offer on my personal memories of the game and the Leafs from many years ago.

 Launched in September of 2009, I continue to hope that the site provides a comfortable place to visit when you want to read or talk about hockey and the Leafs—past or present.

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 On any given day—year-round— there are probably as many words devoted to the Maple Leafs as any other team—or topics, for that matter—in the world of sports.

There is always something to discuss, assess, analyze or dispute.  Whether this rather intense scrutiny is part of why Leaf teams have sometimes struggled is difficult to say with absolute certainty.  But rarely a day goes by, in season our out, that the Leafs are not a topic of analysis, scrutiny and debate.

 At the moment, and not necessarily in order of importance, here are some of the topics and related questions that seem to be of interest to Leaflanders (and myself):
  1.  Well into year three of the Wilson coaching regime, is this a “Ron Wilson” team?  Is he still the right guy to take this team where they need to go?
  2. Who is the goaltender of the present—and future?
  3. Given that Giguere is not likely that goalie, what will the Leafs be able to attract in a trade, now that he has agreed to waive his no-trade clause?
  4. Can The Monster find his confidence and go on to become a true “number-one”?
  5. Is Reimer the real deal, or is it premature to determine whether he can carry the load at this level over a longer period of time?
  6. Why is the team’s penalty-killing in the Wilson regime (though better briefly in some recent games) not consistently better?
  7. Are Phaneuf, Gunnarsson and Schenn all legitimate “top-four” defensemen?  (If so, the Leaf blueline should be much improved as these individuals mature and develop further.)
  8. Are most Leaf fans caught up in the emotional ups and downs of win streaks and losing streaks, or is there an understanding that this is indeed going to take time?
  9. Now that the Leaf brass has admitted this is a full-scale re-build requiring patience, how does their manegement approach compare with other teams in the East who are also making strides and have a lot of youth:  Atlanta, the Rangers and Tampa Bay, among others?
  10. How many true “top-six” forwards do the Leafs now have?  How many players on the roster, or in the “system”, aren’t now but have the potential to be "top-six" within the next two seasons?
  11. Can Crabb and Boyce continue to be significant role players?
  12. Which, if any, of the youngsters called up at various times this season—Mueller, Kadri, Aulie, Reimer, Hanson, Holzer, Caputi—will go on to have a real impact with the big club in the years to come?
  13. Is MacArthur really a guy who will lead the team in scoring (not what we expected, for sure) or will he settle in over time as a third-line contributor?  Is his trade value as high as it’s ever going to be?
  14. Can Grabovski (having a career-season) get even better over the next few years, or is this the peak before a fall-back in performance?
  15. Is this Kaberle’s last season in blue and white?  Will the Leafs try one more time to move him, despite the “no-trade” reality?  Or, will they try to sign him to an extension before he leaves in free agency?
  16. How close is Kessel to becoming a complete, all-around NHL’er?  Will it happen, just as it happened for the Sedins and many others before him?
  17. Despite giving everything they have, is this the end in Toronto for not only Kaberle but also Beauchemin and Komisarek?
  18. How much more roster turn-over will occur before this team is as close as possible to what Burke wants—two players?  More?
  19. Are the Senators and the Leafs (virtually tied in the standings) facing the same issues, or are the Leafs a team on the rise and the Senators a team in decline?
  20. Is the guy who will be the best player on the team in 2011-’12 on the current roster right now—or will it be someone who arrives via trade or free agency?

 It was not difficult to forecast a better and more sustained effort by the Leafs on Thursday night, after their less than stellar showing in the Big Apple the night before.

 They came from behind twice and Giguere (on the day he said publicly that he would be willing to accept a trade) played more solidly as the game went on against his old team.  Kessel set up a pair of goals.  MacArthur and Grabovski did their thing.  Bozak was physical.  They killed off penalties successfully and were generally quicker with the puck and more physical.  Not a single player was “minus” on the night.

 A better performance, as expected.

 Sometimes, it’s such a simple game.  With the game tied at 2 late in the second period, Crabb dished out a hit at the Leaf blue line, the puck was turned over and Phaneuf moved the puck quickly to Kessel.  A nice little flip pass hit Bozak in stride and a well-placed shot gave the Leafs a 3-2 lead, a lead they did not relinquish.

 A harbinger of things to come, or just one good night?  Well, that question has been asked here before.  Most Leaf fans will "believe" when they see this kind of all-around effort on a consistent basis

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