Plus Ca Change. . .The More It's Like Groundhog Day
The entire off-season plan of the Maple Leafs was to find a way that Tyler Bozak didn't have to centre the No. 1 line and feed Phil Kessel.
But showing what happens to the best laid plans, when the season begins tonight against Montreal Bozak starts again in that very same position. Injuries, or at least an injury to Tim Connolly, has thrust Bozak right back into the No. 1 hole where he was - unfairly - the subject of much criticism last year because he couldn't put up the numbers of a top pivot.
"This year is a big year for me," said Bozak this morning, musing on his 15-goal, 17-assist campaign of a year ago. "Last year was my first full year. This year we'll see where I really stand."
While many fretted about Bozak's offensive numbers, the 25-year-old was far more concerned about his defensive play after going an ugly minus-29 last season.
"Yeah, it did bother me," said Bozak. "It's a weird stat, because you score against a five-man unit. But I've never been a negative in my whole career.
"I do think I'm a good defensive player. I always was. Maybe my confidence got a little low at times last season."
"I want to do a lot better in that category this year. I've learned a lot."
Joffrey Lupul will join Bozak and Kessel, while Mikhail Grabovski will join 30-goal man Nik Kulemin and rookie Matt Frattin on the No. 2 line.
"Play the same way," said Kulemin when asked about his ambitions for this season. "And score a little more."
Matthew Lombardi, with only one pre-season game, will start on the fourth line.
"If he can take more, I'd love to move him up," said head coach Ron Wilson of Lombardi, who missed 11 months with concussion problems. "But even he admits he has a lot of rust on him."
Wilson said he doesn't expect Tim Connolly will return for Saturday's game against Ottawa.
"But if he comes to me and says he's ready, he'll probably be in there," said the Leaf coach.