Even if the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t qualify for the playoffs during the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup Championships, the Leafs are now back after a long summer to start its training camp.
In this 2011-2012 NHL season, the Leafs let go of goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, defenseman Brett Lebda and centerman Tim Brent, the team made some tweaks by acquiring centermen Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi and Joe Colborne, as well as defenseman Cody Franson.
The Leafs made news recently after the long summer negotiation over the extension of defenseman Luke Schenn has finally came to an end. The 21-year-old Schenn, who scored 5 goals and 22 points last season, signed a five-year extension deal with the Maple Leafs. Although head coach Ron Wilson doesn’t expect Schenn to make dramatic changes for this year’s season, he just wants Schenn to generate higher offensive numbers.
On the coaching bench, Wilson made some changes to his coaching staff. As per the instruction of general manager Brian Burke, Wilson replaced his coaching assistants Tim Hunter and Keith Acton with Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin.
Maple Leafs fans will surely expect much from the rapid pace of 23-year-old goaltender James Reimer. Aside from Leafs’ fan base, the whole team and Burke will be relying on Reimer to score more goals for this year’s NHL season. Reimer, who is now in his sophomore year, put up a 20-10-5 record and scored 2.60 goals against average last year. However, some sports enthusiasts are asking whether Reimer will fall into the sophomore curse for the 2011-2012 season.
With too much weight on his shoulders, Reimer will surely need the help of Maple Leafs back-up goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to get the team to qualify for this year’s NHL playoffs. In the past season, Gustavsson scored 3.29 goals against average with a save percentage of .890.
This year’s NHL season will see the return of right winger Colton Douglas Orr and centerman Lombardi. Orr and Lombardi both suffered from concussions from last season and are expected to score higher numbers this year. Although Orr already has secured clearance to play, Lombardi hasn’t been cleared by doctors to play for contact. Burke has great expectations on Lombardi’s speed and believes that the 29-year-old centerman, who only played two games for the Nashville Predators in the past season, is a great addition to the team’s forward group. Also when it comes to Maple Leafs powerplay for this season, Franson, Connolly and defenseman John-Michael Liles are expected to hit the mark. For Leafs’ penalty killers, Connolly and centerman Philippie Dupuis appear to be good options.
Today’s season, the Maple Leafs team is jam-packed with a lot of centermen and defensemen, and Wilson will surely expect a lot from them. Wilson is now back with a priority to get the team into the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons this year.
Maple Leafs’ fans will definitely want to watch out whether forward Nazem Kadri would be given a greater role in the team or defenseman Dion Phaneuf would be able to score double-digit goals in this upcoming NHL season.
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