The Leafs continue to plug the holes on their roster with today’s signing of bottom-six center Philippe Dupuis, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche.Â Dupuis secured himself a two-way deal from Toronto, hoping to build onÂ 2010-2011, hisÂ first full NHL season in which he accumulated 17 points in 74 games.Â More importantly, he displayed energy and hustle on most nights, above and beyond that of his at-times despondent teammates.Â He has a penchant for hitting with some penalty killing aptitude and should compete for the fourth line center spot with the Leafs this fall.
From what I’ve seen, Dupuis has the wheels and tenacity that Burke favours in his grinders.Â Fans shouldn’t confuse Dupuis with an offensive dud on the level of say, Zenon Kenopka.Â Philippe did put up over 100 points with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL when he was 20, and his release still belies a scoring touch that has been muted inÂ an attempt toÂ redefineÂ his playing style to adapt to the NHL level.Â He has done so by using hisÂ speed to throw hits with vigor and frequency, accumulating 128 recorded hits, good for second amongst Avalanche forwards. 128 hits would have put him first amongst Leafs forwards and this willingness to throw his body would have factored into Toronto’s desire to add him to a lineup that has lately been looking a little soft and concussiony.
If there is one glaring fault in the game of Dupuis currently, it’d be his questionable faceoff prowess after he clocked in a season where he won just 46.2% of his draws.Â While not a hard and fast rule by any means, a fourth line center is typically expected to be strong on faceoffs, as this is but one important factor in the constitution of a gritty, defensively-capable checker.Â One has to then consider why Burke and co. would opt to allow fan-favourite Tim Brent (52% faceoff percentage, singlehandedly kills 3-on-5s….you know) to walk in favour of a fairly comparable yet unfamiliar player.Â Â While it’s within the realm of possibility that it is the potential of Dupuis as a player orÂ the miniscule amount of money management saved by electing to go with the Quebec native, it is more likely that Tim Brent wanted a one-way contract, whereas the Leafs would like the versatility of a two-way deal in terms of roster management.
Signings like this mayÂ pale in comparison to the excitement of resigning stud RFAs like LukeÂ Schenn or the completely unexpected thrill of actually trading Brett Lebda, but they are truly important in the establishment of this franchise’s competitive atmosphere.Â Many of us have noticed the glaringly empty hole in the middle of our fourth line over the last few weeks, electing to coyly jot in Darryl Boyce’s name or fantasy FA signings like Zenon Konopka (hah! I even saw someone slot Mike Brown into that pivot role, yikes).Â This is not to say that the Leafs still won’t resign Boyce (another fan favourite) as they are said to be in talks with the Noseless Warrior.Â But you can bet Boyce and any others that are signed will also find themselves with 2-way deals, and will be forced to bring the same sort of desperation and work ethic that was seen in Toronto’s lower ranks last season.Â This was often contagious and is the kind of never-say-die attitude that can inspireÂ surrounding teammates and fans alike.Â On Burke’s team, no spot will be handed over without a fight (unless your name starts with a ‘K’ and ends with ‘omisarek’).