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2011-12 Season

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In part five of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at whether Joffrey Lupul can finally find a long-term fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs. On February 9th, 2011 Brian Burke did exactly what Brian Burke does.  He made a shrewd business move, trading a veteran player who simply wasn't finding a fit with the team for two young talented players and a conditional draft pick.  And in typical Burke fashion, it pretty much came out of nowhere. That aforementioned defenseman was Francois Beauchemin, a good skating, hard hitting defender with a hard shot from the point....

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In part four of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at whether Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski can continue their goal scoring ways. Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski seemingly had instant chemistry, both on and off the ice, the moment the two were paired together.  Two Russian speaking forwards, they seemingly built a comfort level with each other which helped them not just acclimate to North America and the Maple Leafs organization, but flourish. The pair, partnered up with Clarke MacArthur last season, gave the Leafs a solid second line option that routinely outplayed the top line...

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In part three of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at expectations for Phil Kessel, and whether or not this is the year he cracks the 40 goal plateau. The start of this article would, naturally, be a good time to refresh everyone about Phil Kessel, his career to date, and the much debated move that brought him to Toronto. But like Bruno Mars on the radio, it feels like it's been played out, and for the most part, everyone just needs a break from it for a while.  Indeed, the manner in which the Maple Leafs...

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Twenty years ago ... still feels like yesterday. 1991-92 was a season of note. In celebration of the NHL's 75th anniversary, the Original 6 teams introduced throwback uniforms -- the dawn of 3rd jerseys in the NHL. The San Jose Sharks entered the league as the first expansion team since the 1979 NHL/WHA merger. Top draft pick Eric Lindros refused to sign a contract with the Quebec Nordiques, leading to a controversial trade with the Philadelphia Flyers which would turn the Quebec franchise into a powerhouse. The league endured a 10-day NHLPA strike, resulting in the season ending in June...

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Part 1: Goalies | Part 2: Defence | Part 3: Bottom 6 The Leafs' top-six forwards of 2010-11 were a mix of pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments. Most notable among the surprises was the emergence of a not-so-second line consisting of Grabovski, Kulemin, and MacArthur. This line produced at a clip well above last year’s expectations and will now be expected to repeat that success in 2011-12. The team’s best line in 2010-11 almost certainly will be held together, barring a complete collapse, and should see much stronger support from other forward lines, and the defence core, in terms...

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5QTF2SMQME25 - In part two of his 12  burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at what type of impact John-Michael Liles will have in his first year with the Maple Leafs. Since the arrival of Brian Burke as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a few things have been made very clear.  One, he likes to build teams from the net out.  Two, he likes big, truculent players.  Three, he has no problem sinking money into the blueline.  Four, he hates the shootout. Taking a closer look at number three, the arrival of Burke in Toronto only continued, if...

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Derek Harmsworth returns with his 12 Burning Questions series for Maple Leafs Hot Stove.  In part one, he asks if James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson can make for a competent goaltending duo for Toronto. Felix Potvin.  Curtis Joseph.  Ed Belfour. Three names that certainly jump off the page to any Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  Three names synonymous with some of the glory days of yesteryear for Leafs Nation.  They all have differences, in style and career accolades.  But they all have similarities as well. They all played for the Maple Leafs.  They all achieved great acclaim from fans of the blue and...

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While the off season has been relatively quiet, something is becoming very clear about Brian Burke’s reconstruction of the storied Toronto Maple Leafs, especially as it pertains to the salary cap.  He’s perhaps more aware of it than any other GM, using the Leafs financial strength to broker trades of a magnitude rarely replicated.  Soon after taking the helm of the franchise, he began shedding the worst of the Leafs bloated contracts to underperforming veterans (Hagman, Kubina, McCabe, Toskala, the list could go on forever).  Since then he has fostered a group that consists of young guys (be they...

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Part 1: Goaltending | Part 2: Defence The Leafs are expecting to see some major improvements in their bottom six forwards over last year’s starting roster. Last year’s group failed to consistently provide any of the criteria intrinsic to bottom-six role players. Improvements to this group, as energy providers, momentum shifters, penalty killers and a source of secondary scoring, is key to the Leafs’ playoff hopes in 2011-12. Though the PK made strides in front of Reimer in late season 2010-11, the third and fourth lines were very often limited to a defensive role that saw them on their heels most nights,...

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The Leafs’ 2011-12 defence core boasts nine NHL-ready defencemen, not counting any of the three or four prospects who are on the verge of being ready and are hoping to challenge for a job with the big club at training camp. With a maximum of seven spots available, the competition at D will be the fiercest of the camp, and easily the most interesting. The top of the depth chart features the only two defencemen guaranteed a top-four position next season: Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn. After that, however, management has set the stage for a tooth-and-claw training camp battle,...

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Earlier this month, Gus projected Nikolai Kulemin as Toronto's top scorer for the upcoming season in his 2011-2012 Maple Leaf player projections. Now it's time for me to share my projections, but I'll be taking a bit of a different approach. In an effort to make this as systematic as possible, I'm going to use a makeshift formula that I've created myself to take into account a few determining factors. I'm going to start by placing value on a player's last three years of production, with the more recent years worth more than the earlier years. Year 1 will make...

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There is no doubt many Leafs fans are disappointed that the off-season has passed without the "elite first line center" void filled. Despite an uncharacteristically quiet first day of free agency, however, Maple Leafs’ General Manager Brian Burke has not been silent this off-season; having added depth at both defence, already a team strength, and at center, where the Leafs had been notably anaemic. Though Burke did not succeed in filling the team’s single greatest need, he has – as a result of the many moves he has made during the course of his leadership in Toronto – managed...

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The 2011 Maple Leafs Annual is 99% complete, and we should have preordering information available for you all soon. Remember, if you have read any of our teasers or interview excerpts, you are morally obligated to purchase this magazine. Don't be a bad person. The Annual can be yours for a mere $9.99 this time around, so no excuses. The Burke interview for Annual, conducted by torontosportsmedia, went extraordinarily well. The final product is a must read, as Burke touches on a wide variety of topics including but not limited to the failures of past seasons, the offseason moves, the...

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Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Rick Dudley, Director of Player Personnel for the Toronto Maple Leafs, for a feature in the forthcoming Maple Leafs Annual magazine. We had asked for a few of your questions for Mr. Dudley, and were able to work some of them in during the course of the interview. Follow the jump for excerpts featuring your questions.  As with Alex's prior interview with Dave Morrison, please bear in mind that the flow of questions may seem a little off as these are excerpts pulled from various sections. The full interview will appear in...

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Defence is a lot more multi-faceted than is the forward position. It requires more finesse and more all around ability in order to rise to the upper echelon of NHL defencemen. The Leafs tried to compliment each of their offensive defencemen with a more defensive partner. This is a winning strategy often used on championship teams. With that in mind, of the six regulars on Toronto's blue line at the end of the season, who rises to the top? Let's find out. The previous articles in this series are recommended reading. You can find "Season in Review: Top 6 Forwards"...

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Sometimes miracles do happen. In one of the more lopsided trades of recent memory, the Leafs dumped Brett Lebda (and our weakest prospect in Robert Slaney) on Nashville, in return obtaining the oft injured Matthew Lombardi and young defenseman Cody Franson. The deal was done on the basis of Nashville being unwilling to pay $3.5 million for Lombardi, who will likely sit out this next season and possibly be forced to retire. As for Franson, he was one of Nashville's best defensive prospects and has spent two seasons in the NHL. Franson was a high price to pay for a...

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Leafs Nation was parked outside Brad Richards' agents' office on July 1st, singing songs they hoped would sway him to our little corner of the universe. It was not to be, along came Tim Connolly, the Leafs' silver medal. He has been notorious in his time in Buffalo for injuries that leave him absent from the team for large chunks at a time. At only 2 years, is Connolly a gamble worth making for the Leafs? Time to find out. Here are the top 9 offensive contributors at forward for Buffalo in 2010-11: Name Games Played Goals Assists Points T. Vanek 80 32 41 73 D. Stafford 62 31 21 52 J. Pominville 73 22 30 52 T. Ennis 82 20 29 49 T. Connolly 68 13 29 42 D. Roy 35 10 25 35 N....

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Please read the preceding article in this series on top 6 forwards here. For this article, the bottom 6 forwards on the Leafs are: Colby Armstrong, Joey Crabb, John Mitchell, Darryl Boyce, Fredrik Sjostrom, Tim Brent, Mike Brown, Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr. I decided to leave Kadri out of my forward reviews due to his few games played in conjunction with his rapid change from top 6 to bottom 6 from game to game. When all is said and done, the bottom 6 forwards on Toronto in the 2010-11 season dropped the ball in a big way. This...

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If this is an "Inception" inspired dream, James Reimer is going to be one angry guy.  But who's kidding, Christopher Nolan is tied up on other projects, and even more of a stretch would be to see the happy-go-lucky Reimer mad. Although I'm not sure he's even had to time to sit down, lean back, and take in everything he has accomplished this past season, James Reimer is on a whirlwind tour through the land of hockey, picking up fans and supporters along the way. Starting the year as a goalie who was to be battling Jussi Rynnas for playing time...

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One little note: The terms top 6 and bottom 6 are thrown around rather frequently, but they’re anything but that simple in reality. Lines change often and players move up and down based on recent performance. For the sake of the article, I will be naming the following players top 6 players on the Leafs: Phil Kessel, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak. The curtain has closed on another disappointing Leaf season without the playoffs. This year had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but the emotional end leaves hope for the...