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article imageOp-Ed: Change? What change? Can Toronto Maple Leafs win this year?

By Marcus Hondro     Sep 12, 2014 in Sports
Maybe the more ardent Toronto Maple Leafs fan among you can provide the reasoning behind the notion that the team has made the kind of changes that will show up in the standings. That will vault them into the playoffs for the 2nd time in umpteen years.
I don't see those kinds of changes. Not by a long shot but before going into it, here's a primer on the 2013-14 season: Last season the Leafs finished 38-36-8 for for 84 points (with a -25 goal differential), 'good' for 12th place in the Eastern Conference, 9 points out of the playoffs. As usual they looked at one time as if they had a chance to get to the Stanley Cup playoffs but the yearly collapse - this time an 8 game losing streak - kicked their fans in the teeth with a skate blade yet again.
Kessel, Bernier and others pulled weight
On an individual level some Leafs looked very good, certainly leading scorer Phil Kessel with 37 goals and 81 points, ditto James Van Riemsdyk with his 30 goals. Their much-maligned captain Dion Phaneuf had 8 goals and 23 assists and was a plus2 in 80 games. Both Jake Gardiner and Morgan Reilly made great strides while goalie Jonathan Bernier established himself as one of the better goalies in the NHL.
But with some players, the expensive David Clarkson (5-6-11 and a -14) not pulling much in the way of weight it was again a sorry season for the Buds. And what has new President Brendan Shanahan and his GM, Dave Nonis, done to make this coming season, opening on Oct. 8 at home against the Montreal Canadiens, any better?
Two choices, tick one: either not much or not enough.
During this off-season, Nonis and his staff have made a bevy of signings and the new guys include David Booth, Leo Komarov, Petri Kontiola, Brendan Mikkelson, Stephane Robidas, Mike Santorelli, Henrik Tallinder and Daniel Winnik. They dealt Carl Gunnarsson to the St. Louis Blues for Roman Polak and got Matt Fratin back by sending Jerry D'Amigo to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Folks, other than adding Kyle Dubas, an assistant GM whose younger than most of the players, that's about it.
Maple Leafs:dreaming of postseason play
The Leafs actually believe they have done enough to get over the hump and into the postseason. Here's Nonis on the changes: "We felt last year our depth wasn't where it needed to be. We put a lot of pressure on our top six forwards to perform every night....we think we have nine players that are going to battle it out hard during camp for those bottom six spots. That's not going to end when we get to opening night. Those players will have competition all the way through the season."
And Brendan Shanahan on the coming season and the state of the Good Ship Maple Leafs: "I think we've got a lot of good pieces. We've got a lot of guys under contract that we've got locked in. We're not an old team, we're a young team. We've got some good players in our system that we want to develop. I really think we have the potential to do something here."
In the NHL new teams are stepping up into the playoff picture every season while other teams drop off. Other teams sit in the same place, year after year, teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins (on the winning side) and the Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers (on the losing side).
With all their changes noted above - where do the Leafs sit?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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