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The Leafs This Week – Nov. 11-17

Posted By Ben Fisher On Nov 17 2011 @ 2:38 pm In Toronto Maple Leafs | No Comments

What Happened

It was a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ kind of week in more ways than one for the Leafs (10-6-2), who recorded precisely one win, one loss and one OT loss this week and are ready to welcome Tim Connolly back into the line-up just as Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur find seats in the press box. In either case, you could call it one win and two losses.

What’s Notable

Injuries Put Pressure on Youngsters
Now it’s time to see what these kids are really about. Injuries to Grabovski and MacArthur have left two voids on the team’s second line (which I argued on Tuesday was in need of a shake-up [1], just maybe not in that way). The returning Connolly will fill one spot, as will Matt Frattin. Frattin has a bit of second line experience, looking out of place during a two-game stint on the unit in place of the suspended MacArthur to start the year. However, we’ve seen some modest growth in the confidence and assertiveness in Frattin’s game and it will be interesting to see if those strides are made even more apparent tonight, or if this opportunity turns into a setback. Also affected by the injuries might be Jake Gardiner, who could be asked to step in up front and help contribute depth to the forward corps. For now, it’s a positive experience for both men in that they won’t face much backlash if they can’t succeed immediately. However, the pressure on the young guys will increase with every passing game that Grabovski and MacArthur remain on the sidelines (just ask Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens about that).

Burke on the Lookout
Interesting to hear Brian Burke acknowledge that he is looking outside of the organization for goaltending help. Don’t think it says anything about James Reimer’s progress, as I truly believe the team doesn’t have any timetable established on his return, nor do I think it’s a statement on Scrivens, who wasn’t expected to shoulder any kind of load this early and has looked decent at times, albeit shaky and inconsistent more often than that. It is undoubtedly an admission that Gustavsson isn’t where the club had hoped he’d be at this point, going from hoped-for starter to not even serving as a sufficient back-up. It also shows that the club was never seriously considering Marty Turco, who would come cheap and without giving up anything other than money. So who’s out there? Well, Scott Clemmensen is a popular and logical name, but Alex Auld and Curtis Sanford are two other expendable veterans who could be acquired without a huge return.

Blue and White… and Red?
I am a proud Canadian, but nationalism simply isn’t something that registers when it comes to rooting for my beloved Leafs. Sure, I was pleased to see Winnipeg return to the NHL this season, but that has more to do with the league returning to a hockey-mad market deserving of a franchise than which side of the border they reside on. I’m also not among those who feels a relatively cold indifference towards the contributions of Mats Sundin compared to Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark (and even Tie Domi) due to heritage. So, no, I don’t have any problem with the reports of an American investment firm looking into the purchase of the Teacher’s Pension Plan’s 80% stake in MLSE. I read one ludicrous presumption that the firm would look to move the Leafs (yeah, I’m sure the NHL would love that), but I see it the other way: hopefully this is an ownership group that cares about the product, unlike the Pension Plan, who focused solely on the bottom line. Of course, I’m also not holding my breath on any imminent sale.

What’s Coming Up

@ Nashville (Thursday); vs. Washington (Saturday); @ Carolina (Sunday); @ Tampa Bay (Tuesday)

A tough stretch starting Saturday makes tonight’s visit to Nashville a near must-win. After that, the under-manned Leafs will have to contend with the slowing-down-but-still-potent Capitals at the ACC, where they haven’t won in the last four tries. Then, following what could well be a loss, they get on a flight to Carolina for a quick turn-around game against the Hurricanes (who could shake things up before Sunday) at 5:00pm. Then comes the Lightning on Tuesday night.

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[1] was in need of a shake-up: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/11/15/time-for-a-second-line-shake-up/

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