There’s a definite buzz in Toronto amidst this mid-January, post-holiday gloom surrounding the impending drop of the puck this Saturday, January 19, 2012 when NHL teams return from the lockout and the Toronto Maple Leafs play their first game in Montreal against Les Canadiens. The recurring and very tedious question remains: Are the Leafs good enough to make the playoffs this year?
Just to refresh your memory in case you temporarily lost interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenceman Luke Schenn was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in June 2012. In exchange, we received post-concussion James van Riemsdyk. The 6’3″ American leftwinger was chosen second in the NHL entry draft and put in a strong performance with the Flyers before being injured. He could be the added strength needed on the Leafs’ offence.
Rightwinger Phil Kessel had a fantastic year in the 2011-2012 season with 37 goals and 45 assists, which resulted in his sixth place finish throughout the NHL. Kessel’s goal scoring contributed to the Leafs’ total home game goals of 107, a statistic definitely in need of improvement, and much stronger performance on the road of 120 goals scored. Leftwinger Joffrey Lupul also put in a solid performance in 2011-2012 with 25 goals and 42 assists as did Mikhail Grabovski with 23 goals and 28 assists. Captain Dion Phaneuf provided solid backup with 32 assists and 12 goals. Goal scoring does not appear to be the Leafs’ Achilles heel.
Coach Randy Carlisle has stated that improved fitness is high on his agenda. With that in mind, we might see a more fit and fighting team for 2013. No matter how fit the team is, however, the Leafs must seek out a stronger netminder if they hope to make the playoffs in 2013. Jonas Gustavsson’s 17-17 record in 2011-2012 and James Reimer’s 14 wins and 14 losses will not get the Leafs post-season play when they’re up against Henrik Lundqvist or Marc-Andre Fleury. Let’s hope that a Roberto Luongo trade is still in the works.