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Who will surprise us and step up for the Leafs this season? For me, it’s Gunnarsson

One of the enjoyable aspects of being a fan is projecting what certain guys will do during an upcoming season.  For example, anyone who stood up and predicted publicly that Clarke MacArthur, a late-summer signing last year, would have a career season probably felt pretty good about their prognostication skills when the 2010-’11 season came to an end.  MacArthur experienced some dry periods, but overall played well enough that he has walked away with a very nice contract—after his previous NHL employer walked away from him a year ago after arbitration.

Some things are virtually impossible to predict, eh?  Did anyone think James Reimer would be the Maple Leafs’ number-one goaltender heading into camp this year?  Did Leaf fans project Keith Aulie as a top-four “d”-man already?  Maybe there were people with those views out there, but I was not aware of them.

In any event, when looking at this year’s roster, a few names jump out that I’m sensing Maple Leaf enthusiasts will be analyzing pretty closely in terms of what they may be able to deliver this coming season.

One of those names is that of Tyler Bozak.  Not many held back their view on the young Leaf center,  who was rather awkwardly (and we can say prematurely)  thrust into a number-one center slot, expected to mesh with Phil Kessel.  Some fans would not have minded seeing Bozak cut loose this summer.  Others have more modest expectations for this coming season.  Me?  I think the young man can play, and I anticipate a solid contribution—if he is put in a position where he can succeed.

Lupul?  He hardly qualifies as a kid anymore, though he’s far from an old guy, either.  Will he play as he did at certain moments as the season wound down, or will injuries again set him back?

And what about MacArthur?  Will he be the MacArthur of last season, or the winger we saw with Buffalo and Atlanta—OK, but not a guy worth the kind of contract he just signed?

You get the idea.  This roster is full of guys who, if they play as a lot of us think they can, then this could be a surprise season.  On the other hand, if Grabovski, MacArthur and Lupul don’t produce, for example, where does that leave us?

If I had to cast one very early “vote”, it would be that  Carl Gunnarsson will expedite his career arc in 2011-’12.  He surprised us two years ago, then slid back for a good chunk of last season.  I just like his combination of skills and the way he can think the game.  So for me,  Gunnarsson is one Leaf who I feel will step up big this coming season.

Your thoughts?  Who progresses big time, who may slide?


  1. I would have to agree with you on Gunnarsson stepping it up this season. I also think Kulemin will get even better this year.

  2. Given comments Burke has made, it sounds like Matt Frattin could be the breakout guy (or, perhaps, the next Viktor Stalberg). I agree with your comments about Bozak, and I'd put Jonas Gustavsson firmly in the same box. It seems like images of him smashing sticks in frustration behind a mediocre team have clouded people's memories of the 7-win run he went on as a rookie just over a year ago. Allaire's coaching style doesn't seem to suit him, and he might be a better goalie now if he had ended up elsewhere; but the guy can play. He's my tip. Conversely, Lupul and Macarthur are the guys who'll need to keep up their recent good work.

  3. The Marlies should have a very good team this year, Colborne, Frattin, Blacker, plus all the good hold overs from last year and two good young goalies.

  4. I'm with peregrine- putting all my $ on Gustavsson. I'm continuously shocked at how easily and extensively he's been written off by a big chunk of our fanbase. I'm convinced he is going to fulfill a large part of his promise soon.

  5. You know last year I was very disappointed that after the preseason Reimer put up, he was not rewarded, especially after the spiel Burke gave about how the best man wins the spot. This year, I am going to put my money on Lupul, I think he has a similar attitude as Armstrong, which is liked, but he also has talent and something to prove to Burke. He also becomes a free agent at the same time as many superstars (cant wait for 2013 UFA), and will need to secure a position for the next POWERHOUSE in the NHL!

  6. Gunnarsson definitely looked more confident at the end of last year, as did Aulie and almost all of the Leafs' D. The player I expect to have a redemptive season is Komisarek. I may be the only fan who thinks he looked good in the second half last year - and I look for a real bounce-back this season. I'm also hoping Lupul shows more of the chemistry he and Kessel were developing at the end of last year.