These Boys Will Need Help
So Mats Sundin thinks the Maple Leafs will be "exciting" this season.
So exciting he'd rather watch from Sweden. I know, I know, what else is the guy gonna say?
The Leafs, of course, can't even dare to try to be exciting. They don't have much horsepower at all up front, so the notion of playing free-flowing or wide-open hockey can't even enter their collective imagination for a nano-second. It's going to have to be check and check some more, flip it out and off the glass, relieve the pressure and get a change.
Strangely, some have argued that since the Leafs have depth and experience on defence, they may be well-suited to play this type of game.
Depth and experience? Really?
This is the same chatter we heard last fall when some suggested the Leafs had such depth on defence that they should trade some of it away to help in other areas.
Now we're hearing it again. Folks, it's about more than just having lots of names.
What I see is a defence with two proven blueliners - Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina - and a pile of question marks.
It might be the weakest defence corps in the entire league. Certainly one of the weakest five. To use Ron Wilson's methodology, figure out how many of Toronto's defencemen could crack the lineup of the elite teams in the league, and you have a measure of how strong the Leafs really are at that position.
Only Kaberle and Kubina would have a shot. Of the rest Carlo Colaiacovo is wonderfully talented, but it's gone beyond wondering if he can ever stay healthy enough to play for a long stretch. You still don't know what you're going to get.
Ian White is still learning, still an uncertain commodity. The Leafs brass thinks Jeff Finger is great, but he's had one full year in the NHL and was only qualified to play half of Colorado's playoff games last spring.
Mike Van Ryn was a player Florida was desperate to dump coming off a serious wrist injury. Anton Stralman is flashy but full of holes defensively. The Leafs have wanted Staffan Kronwall to make the team for two years and he hasn't been able to cut it or stay healthy. Jonas Frogren is a complete unknown, and Luke Schenn is going back to junior.
Maybe some of these fellows will jump up and surprise. But even if two or three do, or even if Colaiacovo plays 82 games, that doesn't not make this a deep defence corps.
Sundin may think the Leafs will be exciting, but they can't be, as much to protect their vulnerable group of blueliners as goalie Vesa Toskala.