The Toronto Maple Leafs opened training camp Sunday with a roster very similar to last season’s team that finished fifth worst in the NHL. They also displaced their general manager days before the start of a lockout-shortened season. With many questions still to be answered, is it fair to go into this season with high expectations?
“Everyone’s goal should be to make the playoffs” said new GM Dave Nonis when discussing his team at the MasterCard Centre on Sunday. “I think if you’re rebuilding, if you’re an expansion team, it doesn’t matter, your goal should be to go out there every night and put forth an effort to make the playoffs.”
At midnight on Sunday, teams were permitted to start making roster moves. Nonis made a couple, adding defenceman Mike Mottau, and calling up Ryan Hamilton and Keith Aucoin from the Marlies. Both Hamilton and Aucoin will join the Leafs on Monday.
It’s hard to imagine the current makeup of this team advancing to the post-season given the challenges the Leafs faced last year. But with this season expected to be the silliest yet given the unusual circumstances that surround it, anything is possible.
“We’ve all been handed these circumstances so we’re all going to have to live it” said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. “We’re going to have to make some adjustments and cover off every base that we can through the next six days before we play Montreal. Yes, it will be difficult.”
Goaltending remains an issue and we don’t know exactly where that will stand unless either Nonis pulls off a deal to upgrade in that department or James Reimer returns to the form that saw him win the No. 1 job in the tail part of the 2010-11 season.
Sophomore defenceman Jake Gardiner’s health continues to be a question.
“I’d say he’s close but I thought he was close a month ago” said Carlyle.
At practice, the Leafs split up Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, despite Carlyle stating earlier in the week that both wingers were a lock to play together. It’s very likely both will be reunited later in the week.
There was only one constant on the blue line during Sunday’s session as Dion Phaneuf skated with Carl Gunnarsson in the top pairing while everybody else traded partners during drills.
James Van Riemsdyk skated on a line with Lupul and Tim Connolly.
It’s pretty easy to dismiss this season for the Leafs, but with only 48 games to play and a very short training camp, anything is possible. I wouldn’t say get ready for a parade but I wouldn’t dismiss their chances either.
Lombardi – Bozak – Kessel
Lupul – Connolly – Van Riemsdyk
MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin
Komarov – Kadri – Frattin
McClemen – Brown
Steckel – Orr
Liles, Komisarek, Rielly, Holzer, Mottau, Kostka, Fraser