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Saturday, April 14, 2012

TEN Reasons why the Maple Leafs are the team to watch in 2012-2013

Here are my Top Ten reasons for beleafing that Toronto will have the biggest rise of any team in 2012-2013:

1. We were close - In early February, the Maple Leafs were in 6th place in the East, and only 7 points behind Boston for the divisional championship. Other than the games against Boston, the Maple Leafs were competitive against most teams.

2. Phil Kessel - Playing without a centre that can score goals or set them up at a first line level, Kessel became a Top Ten scorer in the NHL. With a decent centre, he will be a 40-goal, 90 point player.

3. Jake Gardiner - While many had him pegged for the Marlies last season, my blog advised Jake to head into training camp believing that he is in charge of the Maple Leafs power play. Everyone gave the job to Liles in advance, however having watched Jake play for the USA for years, I knew he had the zazz the Leafs needed. This past season he just started to dominate offensively in the last few months, and his progress should vault him into top pairing status next year.

4. Randy Carlyle - The guy is a detailed strategist and motivator with a proven ability to win big hockey games, and doesn't seem like the type to be affected by T-dot pressures.

5. James Reimer - If a #1 goalie is paired with him, Reimer will provide a capable backup and will challenge for top ranking.

6. Luke Schenn - Hardest young hitter in the league.

7. Joffrey Lupul - A bona fide first-line left winger on a team that really needed one, Lupul had a career season and works magic with Kessel. Will likely wear an A this coming season.

8. Gunnarsson - Paired with Phaneuf, will provide a solid 2nd tandem as Toronto's 3rd and 4th defenders, behind Gardiner / Schenn.

9. Nazem Kadri - In recent weeks he has begun dominating the AHL, and if the trend persists in the Calder Cup playoffs, Naz will secure a Big Nine position with the Leafs, and will not disappoint. Kadri already has a winning record with the Leafs in each of the past two seasons.

10. Brian Burke - The much maligned GM will land a big fish or two, plus some more muscle, making the upcoming training camp a crowded, competitive place, and positioning both the Leafs and the Marlies for successful 2012-2013 seasons.

You need about 30 NHL-level players in this concussed NHL, and the maturing youth in the Leafs system will provide the depth the Buds need to start clicking on all levels.

GO Leafs GO!!!

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