Leafs Notebook – January 16

Leafs Notebook – January 16

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Photo: blueshirtsunited.com

Amid all the trade rumours swirling around the Toronto Maple Leafs, I think we’re looking at this all in the wrong way.

The Leafs have been linked to some big ticket names this year (Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Eric Staal, Rick Nash, etc.) and the thing is, they actually have the players to make that deal should they be so inclined – even if that means overpaying.

Before when a player of that ability became available, the Leafs did not have the proper assets to pull off such an acquisition. Now, they could win a bidding war should they really want to.

When Brian Burke came to Toronto as GM, if a player of the ilk just mentioned became available, there wasn’t much he could do about it anyways. The Leafs trade “bait” available to Burke when he first got here was Tomas Kaberle, Alex Ponikarovsky, Jason Blake, Matt Stajan, and young players such as Jiri Tlusty and Anton Stralman.

That was 2009.

We’re entering 2012 and the Leafs now have a plethora of trade chips. In 2009 Burke couldn’t even afford the cost of a good player, now he can and would still have quality players left over at the same time.

As an organization, all the Leafs have done in the last three years is build up and accumulate talent at every position at every level of hockey. A couple years ago Jerry D’Amigo had a fantastic World Junior and was the next big thing in Leaf-land. Now he`s near forgotten – I really like what I’ve seen from D`Amigo for the record – but if that same D`Amigo was part of the 2007 Leafs there would still be that clinging of hope to his potential because there wouldn’t be must else to pin it on.

To really put things into perspective, fans were celebrating the thought of a long-term pairing of Anton Stralman and Jonas Frogren in 2009, now we’re looking forward to a Jake Gardiner-Luke Schenn and Keith Aulie-Dion Phaneuf future pairings. Think about that.

Now the Leafs are in no position to sit on their laurels and be happy with the work they’ve done, but there is something to be said about the progress that has been made here under Burke so far.

Then you look at all these players Burke could move or be happy to keep and you know a deal is eventually going to be made. By that I don’t mean either this week or next week, it could be this year or next year. It could happen in the summer for all we know.

Couple Burke’s trade history with the fact that the Leafs have too many players for too few positions, and you know something is going to happen and that it’s going to big, but like I’ve always said I can’t answer when that will happen or who it will involve.

All I can tell you is that Burke’s work is far from done here and he knows it. There will be movement, there will be acquisitions, and there will be improvement.

For now all we can do is sit back and wait for it to happen

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An interesting week that was in Leafland:

- A lot of talk about Dion Phaneuf lately so I paid particular attention to one thing: his partners. This week on Sportsnet Doug MacLean was talking about Phaneuf compared to “real” elite defensemen and he mentioned guys like Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Zdeno Chara who all made their teams better while Phaneuf was protected by his defense partners. Somehow, they failed to mention the fact that Weber plays with Ryan Suter, Keith plays with Brent Seabrook, and Chara is playing in front of the best goalie in the world. Compare that to Phaneuf, whose regular partners have been Carl Gunnarsson and Keith Aulie, while getting .900sv% goaltending behind him. I’m not here to debate Phaneuf’s ranking in the league as a defenseman or how good or bad his partners are but some of the criticisms directed his way are completely nonsensical.

- Just take a second to imagine if Phaneuf was paired with Suter, or playing with Seabrook, Sharp, Toews, Kane and Hossa or if he was on the big, bad Bruins.

- I’ll provide an example of the effect his partners have on him. All this week Aulie was giving cross ice passes to Phaneuf in the offensive zone and they were completely off the mark. There were passes across the blue-line that Phaneuf would be ready for the one-timer, but the pass would be in his feet and he’d have to stop it and fire it along the boards. There were also passes that were too far in front of him so he would have to bail on the puck altogether and start skating back. There were passes that didn’t even stay in the zone. Against the Rangers alone I counted four bad passes that Phaneuf had no play to make on except dump it down deep because it wasn’t on the money.

- Phaneuf’s on pace for roughly 230 shots, if we say better passes equate to one extra shot a game, then he’s launching around 310 shots on the year (in his Calgary prime days he was around 260, 270). If you look at that, and you take into account Phaneuf’s current 5.6 shooting percentage, you’re looking at Phaneuf going from being on pace for 13 goals, to 17 goals. Who knows how that correlates to assists as well, let alone how that would include quality shots (does that mean he goes from a 52 point defenseman to a 65 point one?). So you see how this kind of things adds up very quickly. And of course this is a simplistic view of things in the hockey world, but you get the point.

- I put on the Ottawa-Habs game afterward and Karlsson was serving up one-timers on a tee that Alfredsson was launching into. Granted, he’s an elite offensive defenseman and the Sens were on a four on three, but how often do we see Phaneuf go for a shot and then have to stop because the pass isn’t in the right place? Even Gunnarsson, for all his game, doesn’t exactly feed the puck in the sweet spot – he can move the puck but he’s not a precision passer. That brings me back to my most recent point – Phaneuf doesn’t have the luxury of playing with another top pairing defender. I like Aulie, and I like Gunnarsson (I’ve highlighted many things they’ve done well all year) but right now, when you’re looking at it compared to other teams in the league, they don’t help Phaneuf create the space he needs to use his shot and make plays. Phaneuf has to create that space himself. This isn’t ripping on Aulie or Gunnarsson because that isn’t their game, it’s more to shine the light on what Phaneuf plays with nightly.

- There was one shift in Buffalo where Aulie was on with Komisarek and he tried taking it around the net, looking for his partner to rely on – as he would with Phaneuf, who takes control- and Komisarek wasn’t open so Aulie panicked and gave it away right through the middle. Aulie’s physicality is great, he hammered Pominville in that game, but Phaneuf makes his life a lot easier.

- On that note, we actually see a lot of what Liles brings to the table now that he is gone. The powerplay is particularly out of sorts without him and it’s for one reason more than anything else: Liles is the best player on the Leafs in terms of bringing the puck up the ice, establishing the zone and setting up the formation. For all Phaneuf’s talent, that’s something he’s incapable of. The Leafs defenseman would skate up the ice and drop it to a forward around the center-ice mark, who would quickly one touch a pass to the other side of the ice. Problem is, the other team would be standing up the Leafs player and the whole play would get broken up. When you establish a system of how to do things, players can’t always just go from point A to point B and so on. This isn’t basketball. There needs to be constant creativity in this free-flowing game (which is why I don’t like advanced stats, but that’s another matter altogether). Liles is fantastic at reading the play and taking what’s given to him to get the puck into the zone cleanly and set things up.

- I said this last year, but it applies right now – and all the time for that matter – the Leafs powerplay is good once they set up in the zone and get into their umbrella. The talent is there as we have seen and now Lupul has given them a net presence. Their issue is always going to be whether they are are able to get into the zone and set it up to get things rolling.

- Speaking of setting it up, Tim Connolly went 1/8 against the Rangers in the faceoff circle. It goes without saying, but for that line to be successful they need to have the puck. Lupul and Kessel aren’t about to be mistaken for guys who can play defense – despite improving efforts – so if the other team is winning the draw, going down the ice, dumping it down deep and cycling the puck, that’s pretty well a waste of a shift for that line. Brian Boyle’s line did it for the Rangers and Paul Gaustad’s did it for the Sabres. Both those lines scored as well.

- I talked before about the differences between Tim Connolly and Tyler Bozak on that top line and we’re seeing it play out right now. Bozak dumps the puck in and goes to get it himself: winning battles, using his speed, making space all by himself. Connolly skates it in and looks for lanes. But it’s really like anything, sometimes you just have to get dirty before you can get fancy. That line is struggling because they aren’t working the corners hard and they aren’t dominating the puck because of that. Lupul can go in there and win battles, but he can’t do it all by himself.

- All of a sudden it’s funny how important Tyler Bozak is. Not only is he quick out there and battling guys hard in the corner, but he dominates the faceoff circle. Bozak’s a 51% man at the dot, Connolly’s at 47% and that’s with a poor start by Bozak in that department (he’s more around a 55% guy). That means you’re starting with the puck around two more times a game. That’s huge. Bozak also doesn’t lose many draws as cleanly as Connolly does so even a scrambled loss can become a positive for the Leafs when you consider the speed of Kessel and Lupul. Things like starting with the puck is huge in this league – it’s one of the reasons Detroit’s so successful. They also wouldn’t have to put David Steckel on the powerplay just to win a draw.

Worth repeating: All of a sudden it’s funny how important Tyler Bozak is.

- On the surface, Pominville’s goal looked terrible on Luke Schenn, but I went back to watch it a few times, and the overall play featured a multitude of mistakes. First, take note of how the Leafs lined up for the faceoff: in the right circle, Luke Schenn was lining up as a left defenseman and Carl Gunnarsson was lining up as the right one. So right away that’s actually Gunnarsson’s puck because it was won back directly. The defenseman closest to the net isn’t supposed to leave the front of the net to go get the puck in the corner when the other defenseman is already on the half-wall boards. At the same time, the whole play would have been avoided if Matt Lombardi just tied up Jochen Hecht after the faceoff. Yes, Lombardi won the draw cleanly, but Hecht went right through to the corner untouched. If you’re going to let that happen, you might as well lose the faceoff because at least the puck won’t be in deep. Whatever defenseman went in to get that puck didn’t have a chance because Hecht had the shortest distance to go to get the puck in the first place. Nazem Kadri was also trying to release from the zone early for a quick strike odd man rush, so I imagine they had some sort of set play where the draw is won and the two Leafs defenseman are on their off-sides so that they can wire the puck around the boards for a quick breakout.

- So while everyone was complaining about Luke Schenn on that play, he was far from the only one who messed up. That said, after the giveaway he went to the front of the net and stood there for the sake of standing in front of the net. If you’re in the NHL and you’re standing in front of your own net not covering anyone and watching the play, you’re useless out there for your team. As we saw, NHL forwards can easily thread the needle to find the open guy. It’s been an issue with Schenn since he entered the league, but when you’re standing in front of your net you have to have your head on a swivel. You constantly need to be looking around and searching for an open man to cover. All Pomminville did was come from behind the net, but Schenn was surprised by it, and that’s not okay. You have to know at this point that if you’re not covering anyone, somebody is open. That’s your job to find that person.

- So while Schenn was the whipping boy on that overall play due to the perceived giveaway, there was really only giveaway this week that was startling and that belonged to Mike Komisarek. In a 0-0 game he crossed his own blue line and threw something between a pass and a snap shot across the ice to Joffrey Lupul, who had no chance at the puck. The Rangers turned that up ice and went down to score on a 3 on 1. Besides simply not being a pass an NHL defenseman should ever make, there’s two other things to note: he was right by center ice so he could have just crossed the line and got it deep, and secondly he went off after giving the puck away. Not only did he give Lupul a terrible pass but he bailed on his defense partner. At least if he’s there it’s a 3 on 2. Instead, Cody Franson was back there by himself and he helplessly watched the Rangers pass it around him like nothing and score an easy one, all the while Komisarek is off the ice and not even getting a -1 rating for it (players notice that stuff, trust me, they care). I can only imagine what Franson was thinking when he skated back to the bench afterward.

- As a total aside to the Leafs, I’m still not sure why Glen Healy put the spot light on Mike Rupp because he had his stick on the ice and put the puck into an empty net for that three on one goal. Ten out of ten NHLers would have made that play in their sleep. I know he’s not worth talking about in the first place and all that, but eventually enough is enough. That’s not even analysis – which is his job – it’s just trying to make things the opposition does sound better than they are.

- On a positive note, the penalty kill is looking great again. One of the mistakes I highlighted about it was the lack of pressure they were getting on the defensemen. As I said, if you were an NHL defenseman you would love playing the Leafs penalty kill because you had all the time in the world to dissect the play, set up one timers, launch bombs and pick up points. Not anymore. The Leafs are going right out to the blue line if the have to and they aren’t giving guys even a second to think anymore. We’ve been seeing a lot of pucks get out due to that too, where Steckel will rush a defenseman – like he did Tyler Myers – and just get enough of the puck to get it out of the zone. That’s huge. As I also pointed out, having three sets of forwards kill penalties is keeping things way fresher and more feisty out there to chase down those pucks in the first place.

- The Leafs had an interesting set play against the Sabres to start the game on Tuesday. Mikhail Grabovski won the faceoff at center ice straight to Dion Phaneuf and Phaneuf from his own blue-line wired a shot all the way down the ice and around the boards to which Joey Crabb immediately took off for and won the race for the puck. Crabb then tried to throw it in front to a streaking Nikolai Kulemin but Tyler Myers broke it up. Regardless, the Leafs have been trying numerous set plays this year and it never hurts to explore new ways to create offense from any situation. I have a feeling Scott Gordon is largely responsible for these plays just based on his work with the powerplay and forwards in general.

- Way before Kulemin scored on the powerplay against Buffalo, the Leafs gained the zone because Grabovski cut through the neutral zone, banked if off the boards and deep into the zone, out skated Robyn Regehr to the puck, and won a battle to chip it open space for Kulemin to set up the powerplay. Grabovski really has his game going when he’s digging in corners, using his speed, and winning battles. It’s things like that which are making a difference in his game right now.

- Kulemin too has been much more aggressive and is starting to get back to controlling the puck down low and dominating it. He had a shift in Buffalo where he controlled it all the way from behind their net up to the hash marks while two guys were all over him. He’s strong as an ox, he just has to believe in his abilities a little more.

- After Kadri got flattened by Robyn Regehr, was there one person who honestly thought Kadri wasn’t going to take a run at somebody later in the game? Needless to say, he took a solid run at Jordan Leopold in the second period. That’s the kind of hockey you want to see: a guy takes a big hit and then delivers one himself later on. You have to appreciate the edge Nazem plays with out there.

- Of course everyone’s favourite hit was delivered by Nikolai Kulemin, but the thing that made me pause for a second was what started it – Kaleta’s original hit on Grabovski. You have to appreciate it when a player sees his teammate get hammered and then goes out there and delivers the boom on that player a couple of shifts later. That’s how hockey is supposed to be played. It also made me think – if the Leafs are ever going to break these two guys up and trade one away, they better be getting a hang of a player back. This isn’t Antropov-Ponikarovsky here, Kulemin-Grabovski are gamers and they feed off of each other.

- I don’t know if that hit will make Kulemin be physical more consistently, but sometimes when you throw a hit that big and show you can do it, you tend to begin to hit a little more and/or the coaches are going to be on you to start hitting more because they know you can. I also wonder if Kulemin doesn’t throw hits like that more often because he doesn’t want to fight afterward. Friggin’ Tim Gleason.

- More sticking up for each other: Kessel took a shot after the whistle with a minute and change left in the game and Lupul got in there like a dirty rag. The continuation of that play saw Gerbe throw a sucker punch of sorts at the bench and everyone joined in there without hesitation to protect their teammate. You have to like that unity.

- Remember earlier this year I pointed out how the Leafs were usually only having three guys go the entire game without getting a shot on net? Well this week in the games four, six and seven players respectively went the games without getting shots on net. I think that’s telling.

- Five minutes left, faceoff in the Leafs zone with the team protecting a lead, and Wilson puts out Kessel, Connolly and Steckel for the draw. Earlier in the year, they would have left Lupul out to see what happens. You just see how things are tightening up all over the place and the Leafs aren’t about to get caught with their pants down in case one centerman gets kicked out of the draw. As I said last week, the stretch run has already begun. There is too much parity for it not to.

- Tuesday’s game against Buffalo is the latest in which the Boyce-Steckel-Brown has been put on to finish out a close game. They might not have the most talent, but they work like dogs out there. Wilson mixes up his line matching during the game, sometimes having Kessel’s line play head to head with the other teams top line and other times putting Steckel’s line against them with Dion Phaneuf always drawing in on defense. In theory, it’s a nice mix because if you’re the other teams top line you are either dealing with the dangerous speed and counterattack of Kessel’s line, or the physicality and work ethic of the Steckel line. Even if you aren’t throwing the biggest hits, you want to consistently lay the body on top players and wear them down over the course of a game.

- With that fourth line, they should be under strict obligations to just cross center ice, dump it down deep, and hammer someone every single shift. As individuals they have reasonable skill, but they aren’t about to cut through the neutral zone, pass the puck around and score one off the rush with their talent. This week I counted at least eight times between the three games where they tried entering the other teams zone and were halted right at the blue line. It’s a commentary on the entire forward cast, but if the fourth line isn’t getting the puck in deep and punishing bodies, then what other line will? That’s why these guys are playing so much – between 11 and 15 minutes all week, and they were down in two of those games – because they get dirty and the other lines don’t. So in that regard, they need to get it in deep much more consistently and make as much contact with the opposition as they can.

- As we saw with the Rangers game, if the Leafs don’t get their speed going, they are an easy team to play (could explain their poor record in the second game of a back to back). The Rangers clogged up the neutral zone heavily, cycled the puck down low, pinched on the Leafs wingers every time they could, and stood the Leafs up at their blue line. The Leafs weren’t able to generate any sort of speed and the Rangers essentially had them playing a “half-court” game. In a game like that it’s tough for me to take notes because the Leafs aren’t skating, everything I can possibly say is negative and in general they just got taken to town. That was New Jersey Devils hockey, played by guys in Ranger jerseys.

- One play I found mind-blowing in that game was when the Leafs were pressuring the Rangers at one point in the second period. Everyone was below the top of the circle and the puck trickled out, leaving two Ranger forwards and Cody Franson to go for the puck. Franson went in for the puck and got it but had he missed, New York would have had a two on nothing from their own blue line. The fact that Franson didn’t even hesitate with that on the line in a 2-0 game already has me at a loss for words. He did get the puck but it just shows you where his heads at and it’s clearly offense.

- It’s tough to see when you’re watching the game on TV at home, but Dion Phaneuf really shadows the top player of whatever team the Leafs are playing that night. He’ll stick with them an extra second or two on the play and maybe deliver a slash to let them know he’s there, or finish his check on them like he did when he hurt Tomas Vanek on Tuesday. He’s not a fun guy to play against anymore because he’s more composed and he’s still a dirty hockey player. It’s tough to appreciate that at home sometimes.

- Not surprised to hear Darren Dreger say Cody Franson is more or less untouchable. Since day one I have been pumping his tires and almost every night his offensive talent is out on display at some point. He took a one-timer against the Sabres in Buffalo that went off the post that was just downright scary. When a guy can shoot like that, pass the puck and be a 6’5 body, you simply don’t move him at a young age. They have to see what they can get out of him and how he progresses before they even think of trading him. As I’ve pointed out before, he’s on pace for 50 hits over his career high, in 15 less games. So they are getting through to him.

- A coaching decision that didn’t get by anyone was Komsiarek on for the last minute of the game against the Sabres with the Leafs down by a goal. They had Franson and Phaneuf on before that, but the coaching staff has to work their bench better. Realistically that decision probably came from Rob Zettler who runs the defense, but regardless, it’s a failure as a group. Connolly can play the point, so put him out there if you have to. At the end of the day there is simply no justification for having Komisarek out there to try and tie a game, it’s simply something that isn’t in his skill set and we saw that when his shot got blocked.

- On the whole, we see the roster limitations of this team in that situation. When the Leafs are down a goal they have three defensemen who can go out there and make something happen: Phaneuf, Franson, Gunnarsson. So it highlights the fact that the Leafs need another two-way defenseman and they can’t run with three purely defensive guys who bring next to nothing offensively. So when the Leafs are down a goal, that limits their defense in helping out.

- My question is, would you rather play Gardiner while protecting a one-goal lead or would you rather play one of the three defensive defenseman while down a goal. Think about it.

- It’s bound to come up, so I’ll answer it again: The Leafs love the Keith Aulie-Dion Phaneuf tandem. That’s more or less the only reason Gardiner isn’t playing right now. They aren’t going to sit out any of their veterans or big contract players for Gardiner – that’s just how the NHL works, like it or not – so it comes down to the two young guys, and right now they like the Aulie tandem more than Gardiner-Schenn.

- If you want my opinion on that, the Aulie-Phaneuf duo is no better than the Gunnarsson-Phaneuf duo. So I’d rather see Gunnarsson up there and Gardiner in rounding out the unit better. Maybe that’s just me. I like Aulie’s toughness but with Komisarek and Schenn in there, you have to draw the line. Aulie-Phaneuf is a good duo for the future, but the Leafs are living in the present right now. It’s about playoffs this year, not two years down the road.

- If I have one criticism of Ron Wilson, it’s that he sometimes holds onto things too long. Like the Aulie-Phaneuf duo, he held onto the fact that MacArthur could play the point on the first unit powerplay. It wasn’t working, plain and simple. I know that he’s trying to give Clarke an honest shake, but eventually he has to step in and say this just isn’t happening. But hey, coaching is a tough job, every coach is going to make mistakes, they just get judged much more heavily here.

- The coaching decision of the week that bothered me the most though was not starting James Reimer on Saturday. I know Gustavsson has played well lately, I know he rebounded after a shaky start on the Friday mid-game, and that he’s earned everything he’s gotten, but there’s a bottom line here and it’s that Wilson proclaimed “win and your in.” This might not seem “black and white” to some, but it is in this instance. If you’re going to sit there full of bravado and share your coaching philosophy you don’t go against it the second you get an opportunity to. James Reimer was probably watching that Sabres game and at the end he thought to himself, “get ready to play tomorrow.” Beyond that, it’s like anything else in life: if someone tells you they are going to do something in a specific scenario and and come the first chance they get to enforce it they don’t, then what are you going to think about that person? It was never about who gave them the better chance to win, at least to me. It was all about the message. Gustavsson’s played well and the team knows that, but he lost. Send a message. You know players are going to be thinking “wow, I can’t believe they are taking him out after just one loss,” but if you’re Wilson you had the chance to crack down a little and say, “rules are rules, we’re here to win and he didn’t, so now James gets to go.” I don’t even think they would have won if Reimer played, but it’s the principle of the matter.

- Speaking of the principle of the matter, throughout the season I have pointed out numerous times where players have been run, hit, or taken down by an opponent and there simply hasn’t been a response. We can go back an additional week to see Adam Hall knocking over Jonas Gustavsson in a 6-3 game and getting pushed for his troubles. In a 6-3 game, in which he knocked over the goalie, the Leafs took the powerplay and moved on. Continuing on from that we saw Tomas Vanek literally almost end Nazem Kadri’s season – and that’s not an over exaggeration, that was a knee-on-knee hit that could have seriously damaged his knee ligaments – and nothing happened yet again. Was Vanek going to fight somebody if challenged? No, probably not. But did someone even attempt to grab him after an ugly looking hit? I know Vanek put his hand up right away to signal a mistake, but it is what it is in that scenario. They flashed the bench on camera and there were a lot of players up and yelling, but what good is that? Eventually you either step up and protect your teammates, or you do nothing. It’s looking like nothing from this team.

- I read a great story once from a former NHLer who said his first game was against the Wayne Gretzky led Oilers. The name escapes me, but he played under 200 NHL games, and before the game his teammates were telling him Gretzky likes to cross the line, stop up, cut in and thread the needle, so watch for it. So his first shift against Gretzky, Gretzky did exactly what his teammates said he would, he read the play and actually knocked Wayne down. Dave Semenko came across the ice, hammered this defenseman to the ice and told him, “We don’t do that to Wayne in this league kid, I’ll kill you if that happens again.”

- Of course, there’s no way you could play an enforcer on a line with a star in today’s game and there are differences between the league in the 80s and present day that don’t escape me, but I couldn’t help but think of that story as I watched Brian Boyle harass Phil all over the ice and look to physically abuse him whenever possible. Obviously Kessel has to stand up for himself too, but I think everybody is aware of his limitations in that department, and that includes his opponents. Think about it – if you’re Brian Boyle, what’s stopping you from getting to Kessel other than Phil’s speed? Nothing. It’s only going to get worse now too. Kessel’s had a great year, playoff time is coming faster than ever, and most teams the Leafs will play from here on out have already played him once this season and have had a good look at him. There eventually has to be someone who steps up in that department and lays the law down simply: “if you want to get to Kessel, you’re going to have to answer me.” It’s hard to describe to people who have never played hockey, but when you’re on ice and there are players out there who are simply looking to hurt you, make your life miserable, and they are over half a foot taller than you (like Boyle was), it can be intimidating. That’s when you need a guy on your team that makes you feel protected and safe to play your game.

- The Leafs sort of remind me of the pre-lockout Sens in the sense that they have a ton of talent, a couple of “tough” players, and think that can make up for a lack of team toughness. As we saw first hand, it doesn’t work that way. Just ask Alexei Yashin – easily one of the best players in the world at that time – how he felt about Corson taking him to town in the playoffs annually and nobody doing anything about it.

- It’s worth noting that the Leafs have players in the system that will eventually address the lack of toughness and I also think Burke will make a move for it somehow. But until then, this is the roster they have and something has to change.

The Leafs have a golden opportunity this week to put some wins together as they play the Sens, Wild and Habs at home. I’ll be at the game against Ottawa, so I will have a ton of notes from that alone. The schedule has been friendly to them, it’s up to the Leafs now to take advantage of it.

Anthony Petrielli has been writing Leafs Notebooks, also known as short stories, on MLHS since the beginning of the 2011 season. He'd rather let his work do the talking but Alec and Declan have been bugging him about writing a bio, so here it is. You can contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @APetrielli

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