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A win in Ottawa, but is there something to be hopeful about?

The game announcers last night suggested the Leafs may be a handful down the stretch for teams fighting for a playoff spot.

I just can’t imagine that’s what Leaf fans had in mind as a goal when the season started with so much optimism last October.

In any event, beating an Ottawa side hit by the flu bug may not be a major achievement, but at least the Leafs played with an edge we’ll all want to see throughout the 2010-’11 season.

These games mean precious little. Coaches will say players are auditioning for next season, but we all know that’s what training camp is for. The Leafs are playing out the string.

That said, winning beats losing, so we’ll take the two points.

But figuring out who will be the twelve forwards who break camp next fall is impossible to determine at this point. The Leafs badly need grit—and guys who can put the puck in the net.

Most of us like what Bozak has shown in his time with the big club, though there’s no certainty he will be a top six forward over time. Probably, but it’s too soon to say.

I do think Kulemin has shown enough this year to play full-time on one of the top three lines next year. I’ve mentioned him more in the last few months than just about everyone other than Kessel. I think he can double his point production next season.

So we likely have one line for sure—Bozak between Kessel and Kulemin.

Now, if we put that line on, say, teams like Vancouver, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia or San Jose, would they be considered a first line, second line or third line?

I think we know the answer. And right now, that’s the best unit we have.

It would appear that Sjostrom, the former Phoenix first-rounder, will be strictly a defensive, third-line winger, with penalty-killing responsibilities going forward. Some young forwards—Hanson, Stalberg, Wallin—show flashes but right now it’s just hard to project where they fit and what the first three lines will look like twelve months from now—when the expectations will hopefully be higher than being a late-season “spoiler”.

I’ll be interested to see how they handle the Flyers match-up in Philly tonight. Back-to-back games, travel. Road game against a physical team.

Final note: coming out of the Olympic break, Giguerre was the number one guy, full stop. Two more not-so-great games from him, and Wilson said the goalies will split games down the stretch.

Now, do we flip-flop yet again after a good game from Gustvasson last night?

1 comment:

  1. Did you really say that Wallin has shown flashes? As well he ain't so young and has a fair bit of NHL and European experience.

    Realistically I think the following players are (almost) guaranteed to be on the team at least until lets say November:

    -- Bozak* Kessel
    Kuleimin** Grabs*** --
    Sjostrom --- ---
    Orr Mitchell**** Rosehill

    * and *** Bozak and Grabs may switch lines
    ** Kuleimin realistically will be on any of the top 3 lines
    **** Mitchell will be either our 3/4 C or possibly a 4th line W as he has been recently

    Ideally we sign a few more NCAA and european prospects and fill out the roster with veteran UFAs (like Lang, Afinogenov, etc were this year (and Lundmark off the waiver wire)) and prospects for one more year.

    For those 4 spots we should have the following (at least) fighting for them:

    Hanson, Stalberg, Caputi, Lundmark (the four that are there now (minus wallin))

    And some of our younger prospects who will probably be moving to the pros next year (though shouldn't expect more than we got out of Hanson, et al this year from this group):
    Kadri, Stefanovich, Dido, etc