• Broll is doing well and I somewhat expected that.

    The surprise so far is Andrew MacWilliam. He seems mature, steady and dependable. At 226 lbs he is already a full-sized man among men.

    From what I can see he has jumped past Holzer and Blacker on the depth chart. He’s going to get a long look. If Franson continues to hold out, MacWilliam might stay for a while at the expense of Rielly.

  • Hey Steve,

    I wanted to answer your defence question because it’s an area that intrigues me as well.

    #1: Dion Phaneuf: People will say what they will but I’ve always thought that Dion Phaneuf was a solid defence man. He has to play against top lines every night as well as around 30 minutes per game as you know. I think he will have a really good year because he’s hungry from the playoffs, it’s his contract year, and he’ll hopefully play around 22-24 minutes instead due to our new defensive depth. I think he can be a much more effective player playing less every night.

    #2: Jake Gardiner: As much as I like Carl Gunnarsson, I would really like to see Gardiner play with Phaneuf this season. Gardiner’s mobility and offensive prowess intrigue me and I expect that his assets will compliment Dion’s both offensively and defensively.

    #3/4: Cody Franson/Carl Gunnarsson: Despite popular opinion, I believe that Franson and the Leafs both want to get a deal done and that they will. It didn’t look too good with Kadri either but they got it done quickly anyways. I would like to see Franson on a line with Carl Gunnarsson because they are both very similar young yet veteran presences. They have each accrued 4 seasons in the league by the age of 26 and while Franson has the edge as the better defence man, Gunnarsson is more than capable of handling the opposition on most nights. Gunnarsson is another player who would benefit from playing less minutes a night. He would also thrive a lot more in my opinion if he was considered a #4 defence man as opposed to a #2 or #3. Not to say he isn’t solid, I just feel that the Leafs have options and this is the better hockey move. Franson’s tendency to have a solid +/- rating will hopefully rub off on Carl, who was a positive in +/- last year after being in the negatives every year except for his rookie season in 2009.

    #5: Mark Fraser: Not enough good things to say about him. He’s only so far down the depth chart because of..well..depth. His +/- was elite and he looked really good last year in many situations. He’s tenacious as well as fearless and those are, in my opinion, two of the best traits a defence man can possess.

    #6: Paul Ranger: I was young when he was playing for Tampa Bay but I still took an interest in watching shutdown defence man (being one myself). I always tried to pick up tips and Paul Ranger always stood out to me when I was watching Tampa Bay Lightning games. He always seemed to be on the ice. The coach had every confidence in him in all situations and he was a solid option every time. I wanted to be like him because I wanted a coach to put that confidence in me. People wondered if that Paul Ranger was gone for good but from watching the Marlies last year and the pre-season, it’s pretty clear where he belongs. He won’t have to play a major role if all goes well for the Leafs, but he’ll be able to put up points as well as play bigger minutes than usual for a 6th D. That kind of stability down the depth chart is why i’m so excited for him. In my opinion, we found a diamond in the rough. He’s a great match for Mark Fraser because Fraser plays a similar game perhaps with more emphasis on shutdown and less on offence. I like the hypothetical dynamics and think they can easily be the best 5-6 defence pairing in the league if they play to even just 75% of their potentials.

    #7: T.J. Brennan/Morgan Reilly: If Reilly makes the team for the first few games tryout (which he is on his way to earning), I feel that T.J. Brennan will be waiting in the wings. Reilly has impressed me so far with his elite skating as well as hockey knowledge. He also displays a great first pass. He makes mistakes that all young players make and keeps them to a minimum. He might still be a little raw but I think that a tryout to start the season couldn’t hurt. The reason i’m so high on T.J. Brennan is just because he’s stood out at training camp as someone who wants to be there. He works hard, makes smart plays, and isn’t afraid to shoot from the point. His +/- will hopefully improve as he’s still young and was a 31st overall pick. It’s tough to predict his ceiling but from what I’ve seen so far, my only question is why not.

    The Others:

    J.M. Liles: After Komisarek was demoted, it seems like Liles became the new scapegoat. I think he is so susceptible to criticism because he just looks awkward playing in Carlyle’s system. He needs a more run and gun style game that gets his skates moving as speed is his best asset. He isn’t very strong on the puck in my opinion and that was the reason he was scratched for so many games last year. He’s had a nice trip, but I don’t think he’ll be around this fall (get it). I think he will be Komisareked or traded for a pick to Carolina if they can get that done.

    Jesse Blacker: He might be ready but what’s the rush right? I say let him develop and find his rushing game he had in the OHL. If he can’t, I can still see him figuring out a solid defensive game that will keep him an NHL regular for years to come.

    Korbinian Holzer: He’s still extremely raw in my opinion but he’s already huge and I like what’s to come with him. He can be a top-6 defence man with the possibility of maybe being a top-4. It’s all up to his will because I believe he can do it if he gives it 100%. Maybe not with the Leafs, but defensive depth is always a commodity.

    Thanks for reading Steve. I’m a massive hockey fan, especially the Leafs, and was formerly a blogger over at Maple Leafs Central until our site unfortunately shut down. E-mail me anytime you want to talk hockey though, I’m a big LFR fan and I think we can agree that this year is gonna be a good one. Cheers.