It was an eventful weekend in Leaf Nation, starting with a home-and-home against the Red Wings on Friday and Saturday and culminating with today’s final cuts. NHL 12 and Molson Canadian took a sizable bite outta my weekend, so I’ll do my best to catch up here before the season truly gets going and I really start falling behind.
- We’ll get the easy one out of the way first. Yes, the reports are true, the Leafs’ surly bench boss, Ron Wilson, is the latest addition to the Twitter Universe. His first tweet: “Need hybrid icing rule change! Have seen too many horrific injuries!” Go ahead and follow him if you like – @coachrw63
- My thoughts on Clarke MacArthur’s suspension: yes, it was a dirty play, he clearly went for the headshot – it was unnecessary and pointless. In the regular season, that might not have earned him a suspension, but I think Brendan Shanahan is sending a message earlier. I’m not happy about it, but Mac shoulda known better. Abdelkader did a pretty good job of looking like a pussy, though – first selling it and then refusing to fight afterwards.
- James Reimer’s preseason statline: 3.29 GAA, .888 save percentage. Not exactly the reassuring preseason Leaf fans wanted to see, but I’ll wait to reserve my judgment until we’re a bit further along in the season. He still looks damn near unflappable, and he seems to play better when the stakes are higher. Ben Scrivens, despite having, by far, the best numbers of any Leaf goalie in the preseason, was sent down to the AHL today – so that just goes to show how much stock Burke and Wilson put in preseason goaltending numbers.
- You can’t help but feel bad for Nazem Kadri. The kid had, I thought, a pretty solid preseason. Yes, the defensive deficiencies are still there occasionally, but there’s no denying the significant talent there. A sprained knee will keep him out somewhere between 2-4 weeks, and probably force him to start the year with the Marlies when he is healthy again. A lot can happen in a month, and Kadri could either be hard-pressed to find a spot if the Leafs are injury-free and playing well, or could be leaned upon as a momentum-changer if they struggle out of the gate. Either way, it’s just another less-than-optimal re-entry onto a team in a city that has had high expectations of one of their top prospects for a few years now.
- Matt Frattin wasn’t gifted his spot on the Leafs’ roster by any means. Yes, things kind of fell into place for him, and he’ll have a chance to strut his stuff up on the Grabovski line while MacArthur cools his heels in the press box, but he more than earned his shot with the big club during the preseason. I’m hoping for big things from the Hobey Baker finalist, and if he can perform, he’ll be a welcome source of secondary scoring for the Buds.
- Who will center the top line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul? Obviously, Tim Connolly – if he’s healthy – will get the first shot, and Wilson has indicated he’ll be patient with the trio, and give them plenty of chances to gel together. Just how much patience will probably depend on how well the Leafs are doing. If they stumble early, and that line’s not producing, look for Matt Lombardi to get a look, and possibly Tyler Bozak again.
- How cool would it be to be Jake Gardiner right now? Breaking into a roster loaded with NHL-caliber defensemen, Gardiner literally gave the Leafs’ management no choice but to keep him around for at least the start of the season. He’s got potential to end up being one of the team’s best skaters (I mean that in the most literal sense – he’s one of the smoothest skaters I’ve seen in awhile). He handles the puck extremely well, and demonstrated excellent vision at both ends of the ice. If he, John-Michael Liles, Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson can all chip in offense on a semi-consistent basis, it’ll do wonders for the rest of the offense.
- Of course, with Gardiner’s success, Keith Aulie ended up being the odd man out. I’m guessing if they coulda kept Aulie instead of Komisarek, they might have done so, but with Aulie’s waiver-exempt status, it’s simply a no-brainer move. I expect him to be back quickly, and, given that he looked a bit shaky at times in the preseason, maybe it won’t be a terrible thing for him, after all.
Tags: Brian Burke Clarke MacArthur Cody Franson Jake Gardiner James Reimer John-Michael Liles Matt Frattin Matthew Lombardi Mike Komisarek Nazem Kadri Ron Wilson Tim Connolly Toronto Maple Leafs Twitter Tyler Bozak