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Offense: The Leafs boast three monstrous centers in captain Mats Sundin, Jason Allison and Eric Lindros. There are, naturally, serious questions about Lindros' durability given his history of multiple concussions. Allison hasn't played since early 2003 with a nerve injury in his neck and missed much of training camp with a hip flexor. But the potential there is considerable.
Winger Jeff O'Neill returns to his hometown and looks to recapture the form that saw him record seasons of 30, 31 and 41 goals between 2000-01 and 2002-03. Nik Antropov, another big guy at 6-foot-6, has promised to be less of a pushover, although he must not confuse physicality with simply chopping people down. The streaky Mariusz Czerkawski was a late addition to the Leaf roster and could provide a pleasant offensive surprise.
Defense: The team's supposed Achilles heel, all McCabe did was tie for fourth among defensemen in scoring in 2003-04. Yes, the rough-and-tumble McCabe may have trouble adjusting to the new rules. Name one physical defenseman that won't. Conversely, the smooth-skating Tomas Kaberle should see his offensive numbers jump in the new NHL. Ken Klee, Aki Berg and newcomer Alexander Khavanov make this a solid if uninspiring blue-line group.
Goaltending: Belfour may be 40, but he managed to record 34 wins in 2003-04 and single-handedly carried the Leafs past Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs with three shutouts. Yes, he's got a bad back, which required surgery in August 2004, but he's a nut about staying in shape and should still be able to log 55 to 60 games. The problem is finding an adequate backup, and to date they have not. Mikael Tellqvist, once the heir apparent to the Leafs' goaltending throne, has revealed himself as only average and is now fighting Pittsburgh cast-off Jean-Sebastien Aubin and J.F. Racine for the backup role. Yikes.
|Toronto Maple Leafs|
Search: Toronto Maple Leafs
|Comings & Goings|
RW Jeff O'Neill; C Jason Allison; D Alexander Khavanov; C Eric Lindros; G Jean-Sebastien Aubin; RW Mariusz Czerkawski; D Brad Brown.
D Brian Leetch; C Joe Nieuwendyk; LW Gary Roberts; RW Alexander Mogilny; RW Tom Fitzgerald; C Robert Reichel; RW Mikael Renberg; C Ron Francis; D Calle Johansson; D Drake Berehowsky; G Trevor Kidd; D Bryan Marchment.
|When we last saw them|
Sundin had 31 goals and 44 assists in 2003-04.
The Eagle ranked second in the league with 10 shutouts in 2003-04. He also had a 34-19-6 record.
“The use of your stick, we've done it so long
that it's ingrained in a lot of players. It becomes your method of doing things, so you have to re-train to break it. ”
— Pat Quinn on NHL's new rules