2014/15 Season Preview – Toronto Maple Leafs
2013/14 Season Record – 12th in Eastern Conference, 6th in Atlantic Division
2013/14 Season Recap
The Toronto Maple Leafs were the team that you really felt sorry for, or I should say, you really felt sorry for the fans of the Maple Leafs. The team was fragmented and there were no definite leaders among the players. It was a travesty to watch, yet you just could not ignore that the potential was there.
A colleague of mine said last season in reference to the Maple Leafs, “They look like little boys playing on the pond with no understanding of how the game is supposed to be played”. Ouch! But when you look back, there is an essence of truth to that observation.
|James van Riemsdyk||Tyler Bozak||Phil Kessel|
|Joffrey Lupul||Nazem Kadri||David Clarkson|
|Leo Kamarov||Petri Kontiola||Matt Frattin|
|David Booth||Peter Holland||Mike Santorelli|
|Dion Phaneuf||Stephane Robidas|
|Jake Gardiner||Cody Franson|
|Morgan Rielly||Roman Polak|
Top Call-Up Options
|Forward||Trevor Smith/Troy Bodie|
They gained a solid defenseman in Roman Polak. He knows what needs to be done to play and he will do what he can to ensure that business is taken care of. Many also believe that Shanahan being in the front office will make a huge impact on the team. I think that it is going to take him a while to find his niche and truly understand the needs of the team.
The Carl Gunnarsson trade was a very smart move for the Leafs – stupid on the part of the Blues, but I digress – the problems with his hips have hampered him tremendously and he was basically taking up a spot on the roster without being to contribute much to the team.
There are strong forwards on this team. There are also ones that are exciting to watch and have the ability to make things happen. The team as a whole is extremely disjointed and needs strong leadership. The forwards need to find that groove that will help them gain confidence. They also need to build trust among linemates and work on the depth and commitment to plays. I think that the forwards as a whole need to learn how to work together and make things happen.
I always enjoy watching James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri play. They each have a flair about their playing that makes you sit on the edge of your seat and watch them over and over. Not being a big fan of Phil Kessel’s, I tend to overlook him as a player. He does play well and can be the leader that the team desperately needs.
The Maple Leafs added a strong defenseman in Roman Polak. He will bring grit as well as determination. The biggest challenge for the defensemen is to stop rebounds and keep the puck settled down in their end. Their goalies are not super strong, so it is up to the skill and fortitude of the defense to help carry the team. Staying healthy is also important, but with the trade of Carl Gunnarsson, that should not be too difficult. It will be interesting to see if any of the defensemen on the roster will step up and make an impact.
This roster, while it looks solid on paper, is going to take a lot of work by the coaching staff and the players to make it into a reality. The team is still struggling with recent disappointments and will continue to flounder until they can all come together as one unit.
As much as I hate to say so, Phil Kessel will be key this season while they rebuild and try to find their way as a team. He has the capability and the veteran status to garner a leadership spot. His teammates will be looking to him for guidance and acceptance. His attitude coming into training camp and then throughout the first few months of the season will be paramount to the efforts of the team to become a unified team.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have some of the most loyal fans within the NHL. No matter if the team wins or falls on their face – as they have done lately – their fans stand with them. The 2014/2015 season will be another season of disappointment for the fans. When Brendan Shanahan was brought on board as president, there was a murmur of hope among the fans. But, what needs to be remembered is that he has spent the past few years analyzing player safety, not putting a functional team together that can successfully pursue the Stanley Cup. Shanahan is not the Messiah that they seek.
In hockey, there is never just one player, coach, general manager or president that can get them to the grand finale. It is a team sport for a reason. The talent is there when you look at the roster. Right now, though, it is disjointed and will take a strong coaching staff as well as identifiable leaders on the ice during intense and emotional games.
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