True to form, the Leafs have found a way to disappoint, this time it’s the media falling victim to the â€œsurprisinglyâ€ unbeaten Leafs.Â For a team surrounded by questions October 6, their critics have been mum about the club during this early, extended respite.Â With four days remaining on the sojourn, the only real news of import is that Tim Connolly is doubtful to play and that Cody Franson will finally draw into the line up.
Quite simply, itâ€™s like thereâ€™s nothing much to talk about.Â Or rather, thereâ€™s no pot to stir.Â There are the inevitable and inescapable roster questions.Â However thereâ€™s no immediacy or concern, either temporally or in the standings.Â This reprieve from the 82 game grind has granted an amnesty to the franchise.Â But eventually the rubber will meet the road, so letâ€™s take a look at some of the more compelling questions facing the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The first roster question simmering away quietly is: who will sit for Cody Franson?Â Ron Wilson, never one to shy away from making personal observations about the faults of players he intends to sit, has been quite tightlipped about the matter.
Whether it is Gunnarsson, Gardiner or Komisarek (itâ€™s a safe bet that Wilson wonâ€™t bench Phaneuf, Liles or Schenn unless one of the three is banged up), thereâ€™s no games for the bubble players to prove themselves.Â This lack of transparency on the matter seems both useless and detrimental to the club.
Another concern is how frequently will Franson be inserted into the line up?Â Much like bevy of 3rd/4th line forwards haunting the club, depth on D is immense.Â For a guy who put up decent numbers on a conference semifinalist last season, it must come as some snub to sit in the press box for a 10th place team.
A bigger question is how much ice will young Cody even get to see?Â With the top 4 all capable of 22+ minutes, the defensively weak Franson might not get a chance to play meaningful minutes even if he does make it onto the game day roster for 70+ games this season.
To clarify: this is not to suggest that Franson should be given undue gifts, rather an expression of concern over someone who might not get a break regardless of his play.
Strange as it seems, Franson and fellow Preds alum Matthew Lombardi seem to be on opposite trajectories.Â In July, Franson was certain and Lombardi a question.Â Now, Lombardi is figuring to be the exact type of 2 way centre the third line needs, whereas Franson has become an afterthought.
The other absent presence is that of free agent signing Tim Connolly brought in to anchor the first line and provide Phil Kessel with a true passer.Â This time was meant for him to mend, to be ready for game 3.Â With that no longer the case, the plot thickens.
Connollyâ€™s injuries â€“ one might prognosticate â€“ will be the fuel of much roster speculation throughout the season, if only because it seems he will be on the IR for a while and frequently.Â What no one seems to be asking loud enough or persistently enough is the extent or severity of this injury.Â Heâ€™s set to miss an October 15 game after sustaining the injury on September 26th.Â Thatâ€™s almost three weeks.
While heâ€™s been able to keep practicing with the team to keep his sea legs, he hasnâ€™t yet been cleared for contact and he hasnâ€™t seemed at all anxious about an extended delay in debut.Â Perhaps what is most frustrating is the liminality of the whole situation.Â The lack of information on the injury forces mild speculation, but begs for clarification before anything else is said.
In that sense GM Brian Burke has sheltered Connolly from the hottest glare of the spotlight, forcing the masses to wait before passing judgment.Â However, as time creeps on, Connolly must face the public.Â People will become less endeared to him if his whisper quiet IR stint lasts a month or more.
Indeed, for a team that came into the season with more questions than a quiz book, the $64,000 question remaining is â€œWhen will we see Tim Connolly, prize acquisition of free agency, in a regular season game?â€
Thank you for reading, and as always, onto the links.