Banged Up Leafs Need To Salvage November


I said it at the end of October, talking about the upcoming month of November – “given the Leafs’ current state of affairs, you’d have to be happy coming away with 7 or 8 wins, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to expect as many as 9 or 10.” Well, turns out maybe it was out of the realm of possibility to expect 9 or 10 wins, since the Buds would have to tear off a 6-game win streak to reach 9 wins for the month. With home games against Boston and Washington sandwiched around a four game road trip through Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas and Anaheim, that looks highly unlikely to say the least. Throw in the fact that the Leafs’ injury list is longer than Kirstie Alley’s grocery list and things look pretty bleak in Toronto right now. (If at any point in the last three seasons, the Leafs were sitting in 2nd in the division and 6th in the East, I would have been jumping for joy – just goes to show you what myself and the rest of Leaf Nation expects from this team) Make the jump for a look at who the Leafs will be missing for the next few weeks.

  • James Reimer made us all a little happier yesterday when it was reported that he was finally back on the ice, doing some basic drills with goaltending coach Francois Allaire. According to Ron Wilson, he’s still about 7-10 days from playing, and we’ll have to hope those concussion-like symptoms haven’t prohibited him from keeping up his conditioning. The Leafs could sorely use the calming presence that the sophomore netminder obviously brings to the club.
  • Mikhail Grabovski is out for at least a couple weeks with a leg injury. His linemate Clarke MacArthur is day-to-day with one of those ubiquitous upper-body injuries, and will most likely miss tonight’s tilt against the Capitals. If anything, this will give Wilson an excuse to find some new line combinations, since the MGK line had been coming up dry pretty much all month long.
  • Matthew Lombardi can’t seem to catch a break, as he stunned us all with his early return from last season’s concussion and has played tolerably well. He’ll be out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury.
  • Mike Komisarek, who had finally seemed to find his stride this season, broke his arm on Thursday in Nashville, and will miss at least 8 weeks, finally giving Cody Franson a chance to show us all what he’s got on a consistent basis. Expect to see either Keith Aulie or Korbinian Holzer called up as the team’s healthy scratch/7th defenseman.
  • Colby Armstrong remains on injured reserve with a sprained ankle. Still no timetable on his return, but since he’s been out a month, you’d hope to see him back at least by December.
  • Grinder Mike Brown is doubtful for Saturday’s game, as he battles “general soreness.”

To recap, the Leafs have now suffered injuries to their number one goalie, 2nd line C and LW, 3rd line LW and RW, 4th line RW and 4/5 defenseman. That doesn’t even include the injury that sidelined Tim Connolly for most of the month so far, and he’ll need to stay healthy now for sure. My point in recapping all of this is that I see this more as an opportunity to excel than another chance for the Leafs to fail. While the schedule may not hold the kindest stretch of games coming up, the Leafs are still holding two of the top offensive players in the league (right now Lupul sits tied for 10th in points and 11th for goals) on their top line in Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel. The defense is still one of the deepest in the league, whether or not they play that way on any given night, and all those Cody Franson trade rumors sure look dumb now as he’ll be called upon heavily in the next two months, I’d expect.

Joe Colborne has been called up to the big club due to all the injuries, and the big guy has put up 19 points in 13 games with the Marlies, good enough to tie him for 4th among AHL scorers. All the players with more points than him have played at least two more games, with league leader TJ Hensick having a 4-game advantage and just a 3-point lead. Colborne is expected to center David Steckel and Joey Crabb on the 3rd line, while Colton Orr is expected to make his return to the lineup on the 4th line.

My point in all this is that, while injuries are never a good thing, the Leafs have looked very stagnant over the last few games, and injecting a bit of new life and some new looks could be a step in the right direction. If Colborne excels and Tyler Bozak hits a rough patch, don’t be surprised to see the rookie get some time on the top line (not saying it would be anything permanent at this point, but I’d bet he at least gets a shot or two at playing with the big guns). Franson was brought in being billed as a powerplay specialist, and the Leafs’ 12th-ranked powerplay has been converting at just a 17.8% clip so far, although it has been better of late, but look for him to try and make his mark there.

With the Bruins coming off a 5-0 homestand and the Habs in the basement of the Northeast just 3 points off the Leafs right now, it’s critical that the Leafs pull their acts together and get through this next stretch of play in respectable fashion. It all starts tonight with Washington, and we’ll all have to hope that Jonas Gustavsson is ready to go after watching Ben Scrivens lead the way for the last week or so. Thankfully, the Capitals aren’t exactly on a tear themselves, having lost their last 3 and 5 of their last 6 as they’ve fallen back to earth and the rest of the Southeast Division. Puck drops at 7 PM on Hockey Night In Canada.