Who will suit up as a defender for the Toronto Maple Leafs come October 6? Â The answer is truly up in the air at this point, and will probably remain as such until the conclusion of the preseason. Â The uncertainty was furthered after Monday’s practice, when Ron Wilson came out and said that Keith Aulie is most definitely one of the defensemen fighting for a roster spot. Â While this seems fairly logical, considering Aulie’s sophomore status and the club’s ability to easily send him down to the Marlies without passing him through waivers, many of us armchair GMs have had the towering blueliner firmly penciled in as Dion Phaneuf’s partner. Â More fuel was added to this fire as Carl Gunnarsson was our captain’s sidekick at practice yesterday.
Of course, this is far from the only storyline on what is a pleasingly crowded blueline. Â The buzz around Jake Gardiner’s showing at camp has been immense. Â While the youngster will almost definitely wind up in the AHL due to the numbers game and the power of seniority and waivers, there is a strong case to be made for keeping him around, reminiscent of the move that propelled a fresh-faced Tomas Kaberle to the status of a full NHLer many moons ago. Â Probably feeling left out of the media hubbub, Cody Franson told reporters that he is hoping to establish himself as a go-to guy with the Maple Leafs. Â The former Predator has a nose for offense, but was used in limited situations with his previous club. Â This competition can only bode well for Toronto, and will certainly make for some intense and interesting final preseason games, starting tonight against Ottawa.
Leafs a playoff contender (yeah…this one’s not from the Toronto media)