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The Toronto Maple Leafs

Players

The players can't escape blame either.  I am not as hard on our players as a lot of Leaf fans, but they need to accept their share of the blame for the collapse at the end of the season.  Time for their report cards.

Phil Kessel  B

At 26 years old, Kessel is in his prime and he is taking advantage of it.  He has proven himself to be an elite NHL star.  His speed and his deadly shot are the main reasons he consistently cracks the top 10 NHL point totals.  
I thought his game would improve when Carlyle got the boot but like everybody else on the Leafs, he too fell apart under Hoarcheck.  When you play for the Leafs, expectations are high even when they shouldn't be.  When you are making $8mil per season, the pressure from fans and media to produce can be over whelming.  Kessel isn't the kind of guy who is going to thrive under the micro scope of the Toronto media.  Kessel is an excellent complimentary player but he is not a leader and he is not the kind of player you build your franchise around. I like Kessel and I enjoy watching him produce, but I am starting to feel like he deserves to get outta here and we might as well make the most of a bad situation.
Who knows what we will get for a 32 yr old out of shape Kessel who has had his confidence shattered by the pressures of this city.  Let's try to fleece some team out of a couple future stars for the immediate scoring help Kessel will add to their line up come playoff time.  

 

Tyler Bozak  D

Tyler Bozak is not a true number one NHL centre.  At least that's what he has heard since he assumed the role a couple years ago.  After testing free agency, Bozak decided to stay in Toronto and we might have grabbed ourselves a pretty good deal.  Bozak might not be in the top 10 NHL centremen, but as long as he is getting a second or third line pay cheque, while he is fulfilling first line duties, we are getting a bargain and we have to be happy with that.  Sure I would rather see Getzlaf or Crosby centre our first line, but for the money we pay him, Bozak is doing a reasonable job and he seems to be the only guy who can win a faceoff on this team.  He is a good fit for the job during the next couple years during our rebuild and keeping him around for the next few years enables us to let Nylander develop in the AHL.  Babcock knows the benefit of not rushing along a prospect and when we do bring Nylander up, we can bring him in as a number 2 centre for a year so he isn't facing the other team's best players in his rookie season.  Bozak's game has a lot of holes and if he was making 7 mil a year, I would want him off our payroll, but we can keep him around for a while.

James Van Riemsdyk  C

I think Brian Burke trade raped the Flyers when he stole JVR.  I liked Luke Schenn, there were a couple years that he was our best defenseman, but he hasn't exactly been a Norris torphy nominee in Phili and JVR is fitting in beautifully on our top line.  
He has become a little predictable on the power play. He scored a beautiful goal early in the season standing beside the net on his off wing, and he has been trying to relive that play for months.  Penalty killers know exactly what he is going to do.  He needs to come up with some more creative plays on the power play.

 
Nazem Kadri  D+

I am happy with Kadri's development, but I am not convinced he will ever be a number one centre in the NHL.  He is good.  The kid has skill.  His inconsistency drives me a little crazy.  One night he looks like he is ready to take that next step to becomming an elite NHL player, then next night he is taking to many stupid penalties and the safest spot to keep him is on the bench.  During the 2012 season, Kadri got a lot of praise for drawing so many penalties.  He was drawing them because he was fast and he was moving his feet.  In 2013 Kadri became a diver, and it was fucking embarrassing.  I want the power play too, but not at the expense of bringing shame to the jersey.  Sometimes he looks like he belongs on the Canucks.   Kadri is an example of a guy who would have benefitted from another year in the AHL where he looked like a star with the Marlies.
Joffrey Lupul  D

I love Lupul.  When he scores, the team gets a rise from it.  He misses a lot of games due to injury, but when he is healthy, he is as good a second line winger as anybody else in the NHL.  If he was healthy and still on the top line, I could see him having a 60 point season.
At this point in the rebuild there is not much reason to keep a guy like Lupul around and I think if he stays healthy and has a decent year, we could get a decent pick for him at the deadline.
Dion Phaneuf  C-

Our captain got off to a great start this year, at one point I think he was plus 20 on a team that gives up a lot of goals and he is always playing against the other teams top line for at least 20 minutes a night.  He is not worth the 7 million, few players are, but we definitely couldn't afford to lose him.  Dion takes a lot of crap from the fans and media and he still wants to play here.  He is not the best defenceman in the NHL, but he is the best we've got right now and I don't see Doughty, Webber or Chara getting traded to Toronto any time soon.
If we did trade Dion I think he could really help a few teams out there.  If he ended up as a second pairing Dman on Anaheim or LA's blueline, he would probably really excell.  He has been in a role he isn't suited for since he got here.

 
Morgan Rielly  B+

Morgan Rielly was a very pleasant surprise on our blueline in his rookie season.  He is offensively gifted, he reads the play well, he is a strong skater and he is
learning more about his defensive responsibilities every game.  If we are some how able to keep him and Gardiner on our D for a few years, our blueline mobility will be the envy of every team in the league one day.  


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