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mbrano Jersey . Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Leafs team that has much work to do

The Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and took the heavily-favoured Boston Bruins to the seventh game, yet the season ended with disappointment when the Leafs surrendered a three-goal third-period lead. Carlos Zambrano Jersey . Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Leafs team that has much work to do if they are going to continue along the playoff road. As always there will be personnel decisions to address, but the first order of business for the Maple Leafs is understanding that they overachieved last season. That is, their place in the standings was not supported by sustainable underlying statistics, so they cant rest on their playoff laurels thinking that they are simply a playoff team going forward. Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis recognizes that the Leafs have work to do. We took some significant steps, he told the Toronto Star after the Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs. Theres room for improvement. We need to get better. We need to add more pieces. Weve taken some significant steps. But were not there. Were not playing tonight. Tied with Edmonton for the leagues worst shot differential, with terrible possession metrics, the Maple Leafs had to rely on exceptional percentages (first in shooting percentage, ninth in save percentage) to earn a playoff berth. It worked, but maintaining those exceptional percentages is extremely difficult. Looking ahead, to build a team that has long-term sustainable success, the Maple Leafs have to improve their puck possession and that means they can improve at both ends of the rink, finding forwards that control play as well as defencemen that can reduce the number of chances against. These objectives arent easily achieved in a year with a relatively thin free agent market and with a decreasing salary cap. The Leafs have the financial might to use compliance buyouts to give them the most advantageous position possible, and the Leafs are likely going to need to be aggressive in order to make the moves necessary to remain a playoff contender. This isnt meant to rain on the Leafs playoff parade, merely to serve as fair warning that the work is just beginning. The Rating is an efficiency rating based on per-game statistics including goals and assists -- weighted for strength (ie. power play, even, shorthanded) -- plus-minus, hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways, penalty differential and faceoffs. (Stats are listed in this format: G-A-PTS, , PIM, GP). Generally, a replacement-level player is around a 60, a top six forward and top four defenceman will be 70-plus, stars will be over 80 and MVP candidates could go over 90. Sidney Crosby finished at the top of the 2013 regular season ratings with a 93.65. Salary cap information all comes from the indispensable GM/COACH Dave Nonis/Randy Carlyle Returning Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS Cap Hit Joffrey Lupul 85.38 16 11 7 18 +8 $5.25M Phil Kessel 79.16 48 20 32 52 -3 $5.4M James van Riemsdyk 72.76 48 18 14 32 -7 $4.25M Matt Frattin 67.55 25 7 6 13 +6 $925K Nikolai Kulemin 64.99 48 7 16 23 -5 $2.8M Jay McClement 61.78 48 8 9 17 0 $1.5M Mikhail Grabovski 59.56 48 9 7 16 -10 $5.5M Colton Orr 53.39 44 1 3 4 +4 $925K Free Agent Forwards Player Rating GP G A PTS Class 12-13 Cap Hit Nazem Kadri 76.83 48 18 26 44 +15 RFA $1.72M Tyler Bozak 67.32 46 12 16 28 -1 UFA $1.5M Clarke MacArthur 65.41 40 8 12 20 +3 UFA $3.25M Leo Komarov 58.86 42 4 5 9 -1 RFA $1.2M Frazer McLaren 54.71 36 3 2 5 0 RFA $633K Maple Leafs Forwards Usage Chart from Injuries limited Joffrey Lupul to just 16 games last season and, while his production was terrific in that small sample, its worth noting that he generated more shots per game in each of the previous two seasons. It just so happened that, in the few games that he did play in 2013, Lupul scored on a preposterous 26.2% of his shots. His career average is 11.5%, so its possible that Lupul isnt really a 56-goal scorer (pro-rating his 11 goals in 16 games over an 82-game season), but credit where its due: he has 85 points in 82 games over the last two seasons. Only six others (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Martin St. Louis and Jason Spezza) have more than Lupuls 1.04 points per game in that span. The real game-breaking scorer for the Leafs, however, is Phil Kessel, who plays well with Lupul when they are on the same line, but has accumulated 110 even-strength goals over the last five seasons, ranking fifth in the league in that time, behind only Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk. On top of that, Kessels first-round performance against the Bruins (four goals, six points, plus-3 in seven games) helped alleviate any concerns that his game wouldnt translate in a physical playoff series. James van Riemsdyk was a nice addition to the Leafs lineup, showing the soft hands that helped him get drafted second overall in 2007. In Toronto, van Riemsdyk was given more responsibility, playing a career-high 19:12 per game, and he delivered the best goal and point-scoring rates of his career. In 82 career games, Matt Frattin has tallied 15 goals and 28 points, while playing 13:13 per game; relatively modest totals, but enough to indicate that hes worthy of a regular spot on the roster. At his best, Frattin uses his speed to forecheck, create turnovers and generate offence. Hes also sturdy enough to play a physical game, which makes him a fine fit for the third line. His 30-goal season in 2010-2011 may forever ruin expectations, since hes come nowhere close since, but Nikolai Kulemin is a reliable two-way winger who was thrust into a very difficult role last season, playing the toughest matchups and starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone with less than ideal results. However, as a top nine forward with some offensive upside, Kulemin is an asset, if not quite what the Leafs might have thought they had a couple of seasons ago. Veteran checking centre Jay McClement had a solid first season in Toronto, scoring at a career-best (0.17 gpg) pace, but he does the heaviest lifting when it comes to matchups and zone starts. He has a niche and thats defensive play and penalty-killing. Coming into 2013, Mikhail Grabovski had back-to-back seasons with at least 20 goals and 50 points, but with Nazem Kadri emerging as a scorer, Grabovski was pressed into a defensive role that didnt necessarily mesh with skills that he had shown previously. With Tyler Bozak approaching free agency, the Leafs may be less inclined to shed Grabovskis contract through a compliance buyout, but either that or a trade would have to be a consideration if hes still third on the centre depth chart because a $5.5-million cap hit is very pricey for a bottom six role. It should be noted that, on the heels of such a down season, Grabovski still ranked third among Maple Leafs forwards in ice time in the first round of the playoffs against Boston. He somehow managed to finish minus-10 in seven games, despite ranking among the Leafs best in puck possession for the series. After several years of up and down and not quite ready, Nazem Kadri was given a chance to play last season and made the most of it, scoring nearly a point per game despite modest ice time. Among players with at least 40 points last season, Kadri easily has the lowest ice time at 16:03 per game; he was the only one under 17 minutes per game. Now, for as terrific as Kadris 2013 season was, its imperative to note that hes ripe for regression next season. For one thing, he scored on 16.8% of his shots and thats awfully difficult to repeat. Since 2000-2001, there are 13 players to shoot 16.0% with at least 200 shots on goal and few, if any, profile to be a similar player to Kadri; its more of a crease-crashing crowd with a few sharpshooters mixed in. Aside from that, though related, is that the rest of those on the ice with Kadri scored at unnaturally high rates (14.4% at 5-on-5, when league average hovers around 8.0% and a decent playmaker named Sidney Crosby has exceeded 14.0% once in in the last six seasons). None of this guarantees that Kadris production will decline next season, as an increase in ice time or better linemates could certainly stem the regression tide somewhat, but the point is that its extremely unlikely that he can duplicate his rate of production without either more ice time, more shots on goal or, preferably, both. It appears that Leo Komarov is headed back to the KHL, which would be a notable loss even though he didnt score much. He plays an in-your-face game and was solid in possession terms relative to his teammates. Picked up on waivers, Frazer McLaren made the most of his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, fighting a dozen times, and playing most nights. He has 11 points and 187 penalty minutes in 75 career games, playing a little over five minutes per game, so there is no secret to McLarens game and he gives the Leafs a double-heavyweight tandem with Colton Orr, for whatever that might be worth. Orr just inked a two-year contract extension, with the Leafs talking about how much he improved his skating, and while that may be true, his impact on the game still remains in the heavyweight battles he undertakes. If the Maple Leafs decide to invest in Tyler Bozak as an unrestricted free agent, that will come at the expense of potentially adding somewhere else. Some free agents that might appeal to Torontos brass, offering some offensive ability and toughness, include David Clarkson, Ryane Clowe or Nathan Horton. For fun, they could always take a trip on the Jaromir Jagr twilight tour but, really, a forward that can contribute in the top six is a fair objective. At the same time, adding insurance down the middle (Matt Cullen, Stephen Weiss) would be necessary if Bozak departs. Returning Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS Cap Hit Dion Phaneuf 73.68 48 9 19 28 -4 $6.5M Jake Gardiner 73.46 12 0 4 4 0 $1.117M John-Michael Liles 68.31 32 2 9 11 -1 $3.875M Mike Komisarek 62.61 4 0 0 0 +2 $4.5M Free Agent Defence Player Rating GP G A PTS Class 12-13 Cap Hit Cody Franson 77.34 45 4 25 29 +4 RFA $1.2M Carl Gunnarsson 68.95 37 1 14 15 +5 RFA $1.325M Mark Fraser 66.65 45 0 8 8 +18 RFA $600K Ryan OByrne 63.08 42 2 4 6 -4 UFA $1.8M Mike Kostka 62.85 35 0 8 8 -7 UFA $600K Maple Leafs Defence Usage Chart from Often maligned for his errors, Dion Phaneuf isnt nearly as bad as his critics might want to believe. He makes his mistakes, still getting caught out of position for a big hit, but he ranks 11th among defencemen in points (72) and tied for fourth in goals (21) over the last two seasons, so there are positives that cant be overlooked. Additionally, Phaneuf was charged with taking on the oppositions best on a nightly basis and, for a Leafs team that had terrible possession numbers, that meant a lot of heavy lifting. Its entirely reasonable to think that there might be other defencemen who could handle the shutdown role more effectively, but its not fair to malign Phaneuf for not being the ideal shutdown defenceman when hes one of the leagues better offensive contributors from the blueline because the list of defencemen who excel at both is very small. Its difficult to fathom just how the Maple Leafs handled Jake Gardiner last season. He was quite possibly their second best defenceman as a rookie in 2011-2012, playing 75 NHL games, and was a lock to make the team last season before he suffered a concussion while playing in the AHL. Gardiner returned to action and struggled in his first two NHL games (after being sidelined for six weeks) and was demoted to the AHL, where he remained for much of the year, allowing some to talk about him as though he was still a prospect on the way up and not a bona fide NHL defenceman. Then, after Gardiner rolled through the AHL, with 31 points and a plus-1 rating in 43 games, he was called up and despite putting up the best possession numbers on the team, was relegated to the press box late in the year, only to be freed in the second game of the playoffs at which point he showed he was more than ready to handle NHL competition. None of this is meant to suggest that Gardiner doesnt have flaws -- he often makes mistakes, either turnovers or positioning, that he can often outskate because he is such a tremendous skater. The trouble arises when he doesnt have the time to catch-up, so improved decision-making will make Gardiner a better player, but hes easily worthy of top-four minutes now, especially for a team of this calibre. A mobile defenceman who fell out of favour and sat in the press box for about a month, John-Michael Liles is more than capable of handling a regular role on the blueline. Hes not physical, never has been, so if thats a specific need, then he wont be the one to fill it, but Liles might be of interest to another team that could use his puck skills in a more advantageous manner. Mike Komisarek is due for a fresh start somewhere else and, with the possibility of a compliance buyout this summer, perhaps hell have that chance. He has undeniably struggled in Toronto, but thats only been exacerbated by his salary, so its probably best for all if he gets a chance to play again, without the financial obligation hanging over his head. 25-year-old Cody Franson was finally given a real opportunity to play last season and he performed well, tying his career-high with 29 points, despite playing 45 games in a shortened season. He doesnt use his 6-foot-5 frame to his advantage as much as he could, but Franson is smart with the puck and has a heavy shot from the point. Franson also played more as the season progressed, increasing each month, from 13:01 per game in January to 22:49 per game in the playoffs against Boston, so hes due for a sizeable raise as a restricted free agent. 2013 wasnt the best season for Carl Gunnarsson, though he was playing through a hip problem that affected him for much of the season. Hes a steady, calming influence, which is a nice counter-balance to his frequent partner, Phaneuf, who has higher highs and lower lows. After spending most of 2011-2012 in the American Hockey League, Mark Fraser returned to the NHL last season, playing 45 of 48 games and a career-high 16:57 per game. Frasers game is limited, but he is a big, tough defensive-minded blueliner. As long as hes not asked to do too much, he can be a useful part of the defensive unit. While the Leafs have quite a few young puck-moving defencemen in the pipeline, they could use a veteran with a defensive focus. Free agents like Douglas Murray, Rob Scuderi, Toni Lydman or even ex-Leaf Ian White could help steady the group. Returning Goaltenders Player Rating GP W L OTL GAA SV% Cap Hit James Reimer 77.13 33 19 8 5 2.46 .924 $1.8M Ben Scrivens 70.62 20 7 9 0 2.69 .915 $613K Coming into the 2013 season, goaltending was a massive question mark for the Leafs, with James Reimer coming off a 2011-2012 season in which he posted a .900 save percentage. To be fair, that was a season during which he missed a bunch of time with a concussion, so it would be understandable if his game wasnt at 100%, even when he did come back, but that didnt guarantee that he would automatically be in peak form for 2013. Turns out that, yes, Reimer was back on top of his game last season, with his .924 save percentage ranking eighth among qualified goaltenders. That didnt stop the Maple Leafs from looking for alternatives (Miikka Kiprusoff?!?!?) at the trade deadline but, given the Leafs shot deficits all season long, they could just thank Reimer for playing at such a level that they could still make the playoffs because average goaltending wouldnt have been nearly enough. Ben Scrivens saw quite a bit of action early in the season, particularly in February (when he had a 2.25 GAA and .932 SV% in 10 GP), before Reimer wrested control of the starting job. Now, Scrivens is a quality backup at a bargain price, which is an enviable situation for the team. Top Prospects Player Pos. Team/League Stats Morgan Rielly D Moose Jaw (WHL) 12-42-54, -8, 60 GP Matt Finn D Guelph (OHL) 11-20-31, +2, 41 GP Joe Colborne C Toronto (AHL) 14-28-42, +13, 65 GP Stuart Percy D Mississauga (OHL) 13-32-45, -8, 68 GP Josh Leivo LW Kitchener (OHL) 29-44-73, +20, 63 GP Jesse Blacker D Toronto (AHL) 4-7-11, -4, 61 GP Tyler Biggs RW Oshawa (OHL) 26-27-53, +1, 60 GP Greg McKegg C Toronto (AHL) 8-15-23, +4, 61 GP Brad Ross LW Toronto (AHL) 8-3-11, +4, 40 GP Tony Cameranesi C Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA) 14-20-34, +1, 38 GP A brilliant puck-rushing defenceman, Morgan Rielly was the fifth pick in last summers draft and he could challenge for a spot as soon as next season, but may be better served with another year of development before he tackles the pro game. After getting Rielly in Round One last year, the Leafs picked up another puck-moving defenceman, Matt Finn, in the second round. Finn will need time to round out his game, like most young defencemen, but hes quality asset to have in the organization. A first-round pick of the Bruins in 2008, Joe Colborne hasnt had a smooth developmental path, and hes not likely to be a big scorer, but he hasnt looked out of place in 18 call-up games over the past three seasons, including two games against the Bruins in the playoffs. Certainly improving their defence has been a priority for the Leafs, using last years first two picks on Rielly and Finn, a year after grabbing Stuart Percy with their second first-round pick in the 2011 draft. Hes a smart puck-mover who got into four games with the Marlies (1 G, 2 A, minus-1) late in the season. A winger with decent size and some offensive upside, Josh Leivo was a third-round pick in 2011 and should have at least a season or two in the AHL to continue improving his game before hes ready for his shot in the NHL. A second-round pick in 2009, Jesse Blacker has played a couple of AHL seasons and hasnt shown the offensive promise that was there in junior, but that doesnt preclude him from being an NHL-calibre defenceman altogether; it merely lowers the ceiling on what he might contribute. Drafted in the first round in 2011, Tyler Biggs is a big winger who, at the most optimistic projection, could be a power forward as a pro; otherwise, he should have the physical game to at least fit into a bottom six role at some point. A scoring forward who took some time to adjust to pro hockey, Greg McKegg finished his season better than he started. If he can continue that development next season, the 21-year-old could put himself in position for a call-up. Brad Ross didnt stir the pot in his first pro season the same way he did in junior, but given some time, he has a chance to agitate and chip in some offensively. Taken in the fifth round in 2011, Tony Cameranesi may not have been the most highly-touted prospect at that time but, after 34 points in 38 WCHA games as a freshman, the speedster is worth tracking. A couple other prospects that have been toiling in the AHL for a few seasons, Carter Ashton and Jerry DAmigo, could be closer to call-ups, but there is some sense that their progress has stagnated. DRAFT 21st - Anthony Mantha, Kerby Rychel, Nicolas Petan FREE AGENCY According to, the Maple Leafs have approximately $46.0M committed to the 2013-2014 salary cap for 13 players. Check out my possible Maple Leafs lineup for next season on Cap Geek here. Needs: One top six forward, one top nine forward, depth forwards, one top four defenceman. What I said the Maple Leafs needed last year: First-line centre, starting goaltender. They added: Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Jay McClement, Leo Komarov, Mike Kostka, Mark Fraser. TRADE MARKET Nikolai Kulemin, John-Michael Liles, Carl Gunnarsson. Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Cubs Jerseys . -- Charlie Graham stopped 67 shots as the Belleville Bulls edged the visiting Guelph Storm 6-5 on Saturday in Ontario Hockey League action. Billy Williams Jersey . While hell be dialed in to that tournament on a course he loves, you can forgive him if his eyes glance down the calendar just a bit, towards April. . Peter Holland and Brad Staubitz were sent to Toronto on Saturday as the Maple Leafs traded defenceman Jesse Blacker and draft picks to the Anaheim Ducks. In a time of thanksgiving, the Tennessee Titans are giving back to the community after tragedy struck earlier this week.According to the teams official website, the Tennessee Titans Foundation announced Wednesday that it will donate $25,000 to the Woodmore Fund following the school bus accident involving Woodmore Elementary School students on Monday in Chattanooga.The Titans plan to pay their respects to those affected by wearing W.E.S. decals on their helmets Sunday to honor those killed and hospitalized as a result of the accident.Tennessee owner Amy Adams Strunk said, We were stunned and saddened to hear the news of the young lives lost in the school bus crash in Chattanooga earlier this week. We know the state of Tennessee and tthe Chattanooga community will rally around those families, and we want to do our part to honor and help those involved in this tragedy. Jose Quintana Jersey. Titans wide receiver Harry Douglas also spoke about those affected.I prayed for them as soon as I heard the news, Douglas said. You pray for those families and you pray for those people. It is so sad because you put your kids on the school bus and think they are going to be safe and come back home.Its tragic, and your heart goes out to all the families who have been impacted.The Titans will play the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field.-- Courtney Schellin Cheap Hoodies From China Discount NFL Shirts Cheap NFL Jerseys Authentic Cheap NFL Jerseys China Wholesale China Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys From China Cheap Jerseys Cheap Jerseys Fast Shipping China Jerseys Stitched Jerseys ' ' '