2. Will the failure to re-sign hard-hitting players like Luke Schenn, Justin Holl, Aston-Reese and Acciari hurt the Leafs in the long run?
When the Leafs added both Luke Schenn and Noel Acciari for the playoff run last season, it helped transform the team into one that was finally hard to play against, as both Schenn and Acciari were known to be monster human-hitting machines.
Also, Justin Holl could take all the criticism he wants from the Leafs’ faithful and it sure might not have felt like it, but he was actually among the Leafs leaders in hits last season with 151.
In addition, with Aston-Reese averaging over two hits a game and over 160 per season, the overall newly formed composition of the team enabled them to wear down their opponents with their hard-hitting style of play and forecheck.
However, all four hard-nosed players are now gone from the Leafs roster and have been intricately replaced with Domi, Bertuzzi and Reaves.
Among the three, only Reaves averages over 100 hits a season, but at the same time, averages below 10 minutes of ice time per game. For both Domi and Bertuzzi, they aren’t really pure “hitters”, but rather bring a style of play that adds some bite to their game when the grind gets tough.
So all of a sudden, the hard-hitting, wear down game that seemed to help the Leafs finally win their first playoff round in decades is now gone, and replaced with a more grinding, bullying style of play with the new additions.
Will this style be enough to give the Leafs star players the freedom to do what they want, or will they be hard-pressed to counter any aggressive style of play by their opponents due to their lack of hitting and forecheck?
How they ultimately adjust to this new style of play will determine whether the drastic offseason changes end up paying dividends for the team.