With the Toronto Maple Leafs around the quarter mark in the season (hey, it was 20.5 so I can still do it) I thought it would be a good time to hand out the report cards for the Maple Leafs seeing as many schools will also be giving out report cards this week. Let’s begin:
I’m a fan of Colby Armstrong. The team plays better with him in the lineup and he brings that get under the skin presence that not many else can bring. But, seeing as he has only played 5 games, he cannot be graded as of yet. Get well soon, Colby!
Yep, that’s right a B for Bozak. Many thought coming into this season that Bozak would be the #3 or even #4 centre. But with injuries and chemistry issues, Bozak has seen time on the 1st and 2nd lines and has performed admirably with 11 points (2-9) in 19 games. I would assume when Grabovski returns he should go back to the 3rd line and excel.
Brown is an interesting player to grade because he only averages around 9-10 minutes of ice-time a game. But if you watch him play, it seems like he’s always around the puck when he does play. He has good speed and plays hard, not backing down to anyone. I said before that instead of a “Star-Cam” that only follows the star players, they should have the “Brown-Cam” when he’s on the ice because he’s always doing something interesting. Don’t ever stop, Honey Badger.
Another player who has found unexpected ice-time due to injuries. Colborne was a star in the AHL racking up 19 points (10-9) in 13 games for the Marlies. in fact, he’s still tied for 5th in AHL scoring despite missing a few games due to injury and being called up. He’s only played 2 games and will probably be sent down once Grabovski returns but he’s been solid in those 2 games.
Ah, the ballad of Tim Connolly. The guy has all the potential in the world. Now, he has the opportunity to play with 2 of the leagues top scorers and rack up way more points, but injuries have stalled the Connolly-Kessel connection as he’s only played 9 games. He has put out 7 points in those 9 games (2-5). If he can stay healthy (there’s a stretch) he could turn out a solid year.
Joey Crabb was tearing it up in the AHL with the aforementioned Joe Colborne before being called up totaling a resounding 15 points (7-8) in 9 games. He was clearly deserving of the call up and proved it early, scoring in each of his first 2 games. Since then he has leveled off getting only 1 point in the next 8 games. He has been dependable defensively and a solid role player.
One of the unknown adds to the Leafs in the off-season was PK specialist Philippe Dupuis. He hasn’t done much, and the PK is last in the NHL. No, that’s not squarely on him but, when you’re signed specifically for one thing, people expect you to help it out at least a little bit. I’ve heard him be called Rickard Wallin 2.0 and I would agree. Why not just bring up Mike Zigomanis or Daryl Boyce?
The big defenseman from BC started off his Leafs career by sitting up in the press box after some uninspiring performances. Now, with injuries to the defense, he has been asked to step in and you know what? He hasn’t been that bad. Originally he would have probably been around a D or maybe an F. But his solid play as of late has bumped it up.
I feel so bad for the guy. He had so many chances for his first NHL goal to begin the year and they just wouldn’t go in. He started having some confidence issues and the Leafs sent him down to “see the puck go into the net”. Since being called back up, he’s got that first NHL goal and has continued to generate great chances for him and his line mates. If he keeps it up, the mark may go into the B range.
I have nothing but good things to say about Gardiner so far this year. He’s been one of the Leafs best defensemen on both offense and defense. He hasn’t got that first goal yet, but trust me, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, the goals will come.
Grabovski has had a interesting start to the season. Some games he’s incredible, other times you just don’t notice him. With 10 points (5-5) his stats are just as average as his grade. He’s out right now and that may be a good thing just to help him figure it out a little bit.
To begin the year, Gunnarsson was being rumored as trade bait almost everyday. Many thought that he was getting loads of ice-time to try and show off his abilities. But, he began to play so well that not only did the trade rumors stop, he’s found a home as a partner with captain Dion Phaneuf. Becoming one of the Leafs most dependable defensemen and earning himself a nice grade, nice start Gunnar.
Did you expect anything else? He leads the NHL in goals (16) and points (29). If the season ended today, he would be the Hart winner, Rocket Richard, Art Ross, and maybe even the Ted Lindsay. He’s been sensational. Even when he’s not scoring, he gets back on defense. Something we never used to see from Phil. He’s been out there late in the close games to help close it out because of his speed and as a reward on his solid defensive play. He’s even seen a whopping 3:48 of PK time which is on pace to smash last years total of 9:35 (13:53).
Grade: B –
Last year, this guy would be getting a D or F. But Komisarek is putting together a very solid season so far. His defensive play has been impeccable and even scoring a goal (that sniper). But, the injury bug hit him too as he’s out for 8 weeks with a broken arm that needed surgery. If he can come back and continue this play, Leafs Nation will need to find a new dog for it’s doghouse.
Coming into this year, fans had very high expectations for Kulemin. So far, he hasn’t even come close to them. Like, he wouldn’t have even hit last years expectations. He’s been so flat this year after putting together a 30 goal season last year. One thing that’s saved Kulemin from getting an F is his defensive play. It remains solid, but if the Leafs expect to keep up their hot start, they need him to get it going.
Liles was speculated to be coming over to the Leafs almost as soon as they traded Tomas Kaberle. They didn’t get him at the deadline, but did at the draft for a cheap price of a 2nd round draft pick (from Boston in the Kaberle deal). He’s filled Kaberle’s shoes very well so far in terms of offense. He’s moved the puck well on the powerplay and has 9 assists. I’ve been very happy with Liles so far and he may even get a nice contract from the Leafs come seasons end.
I was going back and forth on whether to give Lombardi a C+ or B-. I went with C+ because of his team low -7 so far. He’s done a lot well, using his speed and helping out the PK but, he’s also done a lot wrong (as evident by the -7). I don’t want to rag on him for the -7 though, it was great to see him return to the NHL after his year long battle with a concussion and then scoring in his first game back.
The Robin to Phil Kessel’s Batman, Lupul has put forth a great performance so far tallying 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points good enough to be tied for 3rd in NHL scoring. He’s another player that I really have nothing bad to say about. This Lupul/Gardiner for Beauchemin trade is looking pretty damn good right now…
“King MacArthur” rode into this season with a brand new contract after his breakout-career season last year. With that contract, came high expectations. He has failed to meet them so far, only managing 8 points (6-2) in 15 games. Those 6 goals are solid though. Like Grabovski, this injury might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
I knew Orr hasn’t been playing much, but 4 games? I thought he played more than that. Well, in his 4 games he has 5 PIMS and 1 goal. Who knows when he’ll get back in the lineup. But, a bad sign for him is that Jay Rosehill is getting ice over him.
Captain Phaneuf has lead the team to a great start so far this year and has put a nice season together for himself in the process. He leads the NHL in total ice-time, shifts and is 2nd in shifts per game. Tallying 15 points (2-13) he lead Leafs defensemen in points. The captain has been very good so far.
He seems to have take over the “goon” role from Colton Orr so far. But, as Paul Hendrick mentioned in the game vs. Carolina on Sunday, Rosehill has turned himself into a decent hockey play. His defensive game has improved and he’s not just looking to fight anymore. I’m not saying he’s a shutdown forward by any means, he’s just improved, which is a good sign.
This is tough for me. Schenn is not only my favorite Leaf, but also my favorite player in the NHL. He was REALLY struggling to begin the season, but over the last 5-6 games he’s been pretty good. He’s tops on the Leafs in hits and tied for 4th in all NHL defensemen. He’s doing some good things as of late and I think it’ll continue and raise that grade of a C to into the B range.
Everyone thought the late off-season addition of Steckel was a nothing add. Shows what they know. He’s 2nd in faceoff % with a nice 59.6% and chipping in with 4 goals, closing in on his career high of 8. Steckel was brought in for faceoffs, and he’s done a great job of that so far.
His GAA and SV% aren’t great, but he has 5 wins. That’s all that really matters is if a goalie can win or not. He’s had some real rough game but played great vs. Washington. It doesn’t help when the coach seemingly hates you, but if he plays well, he’ll force Wilson to play him some more.
Before Reimer got hurt, he was putting a solid season together. It sounds like Reimer is close to coming back from his ‘concussion-like symptoms’ which would be a great relief to Leafs fans everywhere.
Ben Scrivens has filled in very nicely for Reimer. No, the record isn’t great and like I said, it’s about the win totals. But, Scrivens has given the team every chance to win in almost every start he’s had. He’ll probably be sent down when Reimer returns but, if the Leafs can find a suitor for Gustavsson, he might get to stay up.
Hey, he’s gotten them off to a great start and that’s how I judge my coaching. He’s also seemed to lighten up around the media, which also helped his grade. Getting Twitter also kind of helped the cause.
I judge this off of the off-season additions performances. Connolly, Franson, Lombardi, Steckel, and Liles have all been solid so far this year. Burke also didn’t make a panic trade when Reimer got hurt or when the rash of injuries came. He’s relied on the organizational depth, which shows he has confidence in what he’s done. I like that. Just like Wilson, Burke just hopped on Twitter and I love it already.
I also thank Kings writer Jack Weber for the inspiration to do this piece.