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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Five ideas to take Maple Leafs to next level

NHL's Toronto squad a young team, with room for improvement

Here are five suggestions that Brian Burke and Ron Wilson should consider. These are basically tweaks that will allow the Leafs to experiment without shaking up the core of a successful 2011-2012 NHL team.

To get to the next level:

ONE: Give Mark Owuya a start in the NHL. Jonas G is not good enough to be a playoff goalie, so if Owuya cannot handle the bigs, then we need to bring in another goaltender. Reimer cannot be counted on for more than twenty starts between here and the end of the season, and whether he is a playoff-calibre goalie when he returns, well, that remains to be seen. Scrivens is #1 now but he and the team need a more reliable backup than the erratic Monster.

TWO: Try Cody Franson on the wing. We need scoring, and having a D-man up front could be crucial if one or two go down in a playoff game. Gary Leeman made the transition from D to F at the NHL level, and scored 50 goals one year.

THREE: Get Rosehill and/or Orr into some games. The NHL battles will intensify as the season wears on and the playoffs approach, and Mike Brown is too valuable to the team to be the only fighter between here and there. We do not need a punch-weary Brown in April, so it may be best to give him every 3rd game off.

FOUR: Grabovski deserves a shot between Lupul and Kessel. He is our best centreman, so deserves a few games on the big line, to see if chemistry arises. There's nothing going on with the second line right now, so the timing this week is as good as any.

FIVE: Bulk up player support for a longer season, as none of these lads were on the Buds last time they made the playoffs, and most are too young to have ever played in post-season NHL. In January it would be wise to add a chiropractor (there's a reason Donovan Bailey brought his chiropractor to all big track meets), a nutritionist and a massage therapist to the team's 2012 traveling entourage.

Three of first four moves could be tried for a game or three to see if they are worthy of implementing for longer periods, while the fourth calls for prudence when allocating tough guy minutes, to preserve vibrant truculence for the real season in the Spring. The final suggestion may have elements already in place, however bolstering the team's support staff and traveling entourage sends a signal that we expect the boys to be playing hockey in May, and we are preparing now for just such an eventuality.

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