Home 2012-13 Player Reviews
Next up on the player review list is Joffrey Lupul.
It was a whirlwind season for the man who has rejuvenated his career in Toronto. Lupul signed a 5-year deal worth 26.25M, got hurt twice, suspended once, and still potted 18 points in only 16 games before notching four more points in seven playoff games.
MLHS Player Reviews is doing their best to round out the Leafs top six (hint-hint, Dave) by profiling alternate captain, left winger and pending UFA, Clarke MacArthur. In his third season with the Maple Leafs, the Lloydminster, Alberta native tallied eight goals and 12 assists en route to 20 points in 40 games played. Yet his season, like so many Leafs, was tumultuous, and his future in Toronto is unclear.
Peter J. Thompson/National Post, Postmedia News
Mike Kostka: The undrafted 27-year-old rookie defenceman who went from little-known AHL journeyman to, for a while anyway, first pairing defenceman in the spotlight of the hockey universe, soon becoming a lightning rod of criticism amid Randy Carlyle’s perceived poor roster decisions.
In the interest of fairness and context, let’s take this story back to the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2013 season. Coach Carlyle had to be creative in the early going – if not all season – in trying to assemble a steady top four group of defencemen. Recall that Jake Gardiner was not himself at season’s beginning, still recovering from a concussion suffered with the Marlies. Gards did not play in the season opener and came back to play only two games (17 and 20 minutes respectively) before being sent to the Marlies (until March) to rediscover his game shape, timing and confidence. Gardiner was a defenceman who, given the promise of his rookie season and the seeming ease with which he skated the second most minutes per game on the team the year prior, many of us were banking on to shoulder a heavy workload.
Leo Komarov is back in the KHL. His signature for Dynamo Moscow has already been confirmed by official club sources and his own twitter account. Just like that, the Leafs will have to live life without their pesky winger.
At some point in the near future, some of you are going to find out who the real James Reimer is. I wrote a post not too long ago about Reimer’s upside and long-term projections and made it clear that I have a great deal of faith in Reimer’s future with the Leafs. Not only does he give the team stable and consistent goaltending, he’s capable of stealing games.
So at what point does the rest of the fan-base follow suit and believe?
MLHS Player Reviews turns to one of the newest in the blue and white, fourth line tough guy Frazer McLaren. Like a lot of Leafs, 2013 was something of a banner year for the Winnipeg native statistically. He reached career highs in games played (36), goals (three), and penalty minutes (102). Of his three goals, two were – astoundingly – game winners; one of those was actually pretty nifty, too.
But that’s not why Dave Nonis picked McLaren up off of waivers on January 31, 2013. He was brought to fight often and win, and he did just that for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
“Lite power-forward” Matt Frattin had an inauspicious start to his 2013 NHL campaign after getting cut from Maple Leafs out of training camp. This, after finishing the season with the Leafs last year and going on to lead the AHL in points and goals (10 in 13 games) in the playoffs prior to badly injuring his knee in while sliding into an empty net (ironically, in the process of scoring another goal). The coaching staff was less than impressed with his intensity during camp and the addition of JVR on the wing bumped Frattin from the lineup. He went back to the AHL and didn’t have a good start to his season there, either. Whether that was the product of sulking or a lack of Nazem Kadri as his center, it wasn’t working.
A quick show of hands: Last summer, who had Mark Fraser on the Leafs opening day roster? Anyone? If you did, I have my doubts you had him in the lineup, not the press box. Of course, the law of averages say some of you had to be Mark Fraser believers, but for most of us his arrival didn’t seem to plausible until he began to establish himself as one of the Marlies top defenders in the first half of the AHL season.
Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
In a half-season full of successes and pleasant surprises, Cody Franson’s growth as a defenseman was one of the best and brightest developments for this young Toronto team.
I’m going to make this very simple. Kadri is a young player who’s stock is on the rise. There’s next to no reason to try and write a detailed summary of Kadri’s season. I’m going to let the highlights do that for me. I also gave him a 9 out of 10. I wanted to find a balance between my expectations and his contributions to the Leafs. I felt that 9 was a happy medium in between the two because I had expected 25-30 points and got 44 instead. He surpassed everyone’s expectations and perhaps even his own. But I don’t feel that he ‘carried’ the Leafs the way Kessel, Reimer, and Phaneuf did. But by the end of the year, I was very encouraged by how Kadri conducted himself in the team’s last two games of the playoffs.
Tyler Bozak. Ugh.
That pretty much sums up my thoughts on Tyler Bozak. His performance this season has been scrutinized heavily and he has become one of the most polarizing figures on the Leafs roster. Here we are in the off season, either putting the final nail in the coffin that has been his Leafs career or gearing up for a substantial contract that will drastically challenge the Leafs ability to fill out a roster in a tighter cap environment.
Photo credit: CBC.ca
Our next Player Review takes a look at one of the newest members of the Toronto Maple Leafs, James van Riemsdyk. Acquired in exchange for Luke Schenn on June 23rd, 2012, the former second overall choice in 2007 was brought in to augment the forward corps with skill, enhanced size and net-front presence. His regular season stats (18G 14A) were good for third in team-scoring, putting him on pace for 55 points (31G 24A) in an 82-game season, and he went on to lead the team in playoff scoring (2G, 7A).
MLHS’ Player Reviews takes a look at another four-year veteran of the Toronto Maple Leafs, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson. Perhaps the second-most famous native of Orebro, Sweden (after – hilariously – the lead singer of The Cardigans), Gunnarsson has gone from being a seventh round pick in 2007 to being on the shutdown pairing with captain Dion Phaneuf. He battled through a hip injury, recording one goal and 14 assists in 37 regular season games en route his first NHL playoff appearance.
Phil Kessel‘s detractors are really running low on material.
I shouldn’t take a rancorous tone with this piece and instead focus purely on all the great things Kessel does for this franchise, and we’ll arrive there eventually, but I can’t resist… Let’s rhyme off all the recycled BS that has for years surrounded Kessel’s name in hockey debates.
MLHS continues its’ Player Reviews with the longest-serving member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, right winger Nikolai Kulemin. The 26-year-old Magnitogorsk, Russia native had a bounce back season, recording seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points while playing in 48 regular season games. He struggled through seven playoff games, recording only one assist. But it was Kulemin’s ability to do yeoman’s work in the defensive zone that made the Leafs a winner.
Let’s start this off with a bold proclamation:
Dion Phaneuf’s 2013 campaign was his best season in the NHL to date.
I really believe that. Phaneuf has rounded into the complete, 1A defenseman that Brian Burke and Dave Nonis envisioned when they swindled the Calgary Flames into one of the most lopsided trades in recent NHL history.
Good news, everyone! Over the next couple of weeks, MLHS will be releasing Player Reviews for the Toronto Maple Leafs 2012-2013 season. Every day leading up the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, we’ll profile one Leaf player that will reflect upon their peaks, valleys and overall performance this season. The goals, the hits, the glory and the heartbreak that led to the first post-season berth in nine years.
But these write-ups will be different from years past, for two reasons. The first will be the frequent use of the word ‘playoffs.’ The second will be the role we need you, the readers, to play.