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Team to Watch: Toronto

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Well, did anyone expect Brian Burke to NOT dominate headlines in Canada while trying to rebuild the long-stagnant Maple Leafs with a flurry of moves this offseason? Burke doesn’t seem like the type who would be willing to wait through two more years of losing and drafting, and his fan base probably wasn’t willing to wait, either.

Who’s new: RW Phil Kessel, D Mike Komisarek, D Francois Beauchemin, G Jonas Gustavsson, C Nazem Kadri, D Garnett Exelby, RW Colton Orr

Who’s gone: D Pavel Kubina, G Curtis Joseph, G Martin Gerber, G Justin Pogge, G Olie Kolzig, LW Brad May, D Anton Stralman

A (lightly researched) guess at the lineup:

FORWARDS

Jason Blake-Matt Stajan-Phil Kessel*

Niklas Hagman-Mikhail Grabovski-Alexei Ponikarivsky

Nikolai Kulemin-John Mitchell-Colton Orr

Jamal Mayers/Jiri Tlusty-Tyler Bozak-Christian Hanson

DEFENSEMEN

Tomas Kaberle-Mike Komisarek

Francois Beauchemin-Luke Schenn

Jeff Finger-Ian White/Garnett Exelby

GOALTENDERS

Vesa Toskala

Jonas Gustavsson

Reasons for hope: It is no secret Burke likes his teams to play a rough-and-tumble style, and he certainly remolded the Leafs this summer with that in mind. Kessel is the first truly dynamc goal scorer to call Air Canada Centre home in a while. The top four on defense is pretty good.

Reasons for despair: Kessel comes with his share of question marks, and how his personality is going to mesh with the unrelenting Toronto media should be interesting. Not to mention he’s not going to play early in the season because of shoulder surgery. The rest of the forwards are intriguing, but offer few impact scorers at this point.  

Quick final take: There has been enough debate about who “won” the Kessel trade. The Leafs are probably better this year with the move, and I’m not sure if the Bruins are that much worse. Now, are the Leafs good enough to make the playoffs? That seems like a bit of a stretch at this point. Sure, they are going to inflict a few more bruises, but that won’t necessarily lead to less goals against. They will almost certainly be more entertaining to watch. 

Maybe “The Monster” will be the answer in net, but for now it looks like it is still Toskala’s job and he has to be better. Maybe the college kids (Bozak and Hanson) will surprise. There are probably too many ifs and maybe to project the Leafs as a playoff team, and don’t think Burke isn’t going to hear about it if Kessel is a problem and the Bruins are striding to the podium with a top-10 pick in June.

Twitter this: @DamoSpin, @kmcgran, @reporterchris, @globehockey

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