Leafs shake up roster for upcoming year
Plan the Stanley Cup parade.
Well, not quite.
It may not be time to utter the fabled ‘Stanley Cup Parade’ chatter, but the Toronto Maple Leafs certainly did add some integral components to an already promising roster this 2013 summer. Coming fresh off of a lamentable game seven playoff overtime loss to the Boston Bruins, Leafs GM Dave Nonis wiped the tears away from the thousands of heart wrenched Leafs fans faces by bolstering the club’s roster with a handful of opportune signings and trades for the 2013-2014 NHL season.
However, these acquisitions didn’t come for free, as the Leafs were forced to bid farewell to some key players and fan favorites in the process of building what appears to be a stronger Leafs team. The Leafs whirlwind summer can be broken down into three categories, summarizing what the Leafs have done so far this summer, and what direction they are moving in.
Key Additions: David Clarkson, David Bolland, Tyler Bozak (Re-Signed), Jonathan Bernier, TJ Brennan, Carl Gunnarson (Re-Signed)
Notable Depatures: Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, Mike Komisarek, Leo Komarov
1) ‘Bay Street’ Bullies
Don’t get confused with 1972-73 Philadelphia ‘Broad Street Bullies’, but the Leafs are tougher, meaner and grittier than ever. The Leafs will have a proven bully for the next seven years in their lineup as they signed former New Jersey Devil David Clarkson for a hefty price tag of $5.25 million. Combine 770 career penalty minutes and eight fighting majors last year and you get one brute monster. The 200-pound bruiser has nifty hands too, leading the Devils in goals, power-play and game-winning goals last season. Not to mention he potted thirty goals the year before too — not too shabby. Clarkson isn’t alone, his partner in crime for causing mayhem on the ice will be none other than Mimico native David Bolland. Bolland was acquired by the Maple Leafs via trade just one week after he scored the game-winning goal of the Stanley Cup finals for the Chicago Blackhawks. While Bolland doesn’t quite drop the mits or make players shiver when he skates by them like Clarkson does, Bolland is one of the NHL’s biggest pests, and has been voted the hardest and most frustrating player to play against in a player’s poll in both 2012 and 2013. Just ask the Sedin twins how much fun Boller can be to play against. Put these two together with Phaneuf, Orr, and McLaren and the Montreal Canadiens are going to have to invent in more medical staff and band-aids.
2) There is a new ‘King’ in town
Ever since the absence of Ed Belfour in 2005, the Leafs goaltending situation has always been a mess. With the beloved fan favorite James Reimer proving he is capable of a being the no.1 starter after a remarkable series against the Boston Bruins, it appeared as Toronto may have solved their goaltending woes. However, Dave Nonis strengthened the position in between the pipes even more by adding former Los Angeles Kings back-stopper Jonathan Bernier. The promising 24 year old brings a nifty 29-20 career NHL record to the Leafs, as well as 9-3-1 record last year. Bernier was overshadowed the last few years in Los Angeles by goaltending sensation Jonathan Quick. Now, Bernier has a chance to show he is the real deal and can fight for the no.1 goaltending decision with James Reimer – making for what should be a stellar goaltending tandem. Bernier was quoted earlier in the year saying, “I am happy to be a Toronto Maple Leaf, but even happier to have a chance at being the no.1 goalie and proving to the Kings they made a mistake.” With that kind of moxie, it should make for an interesting goaltending situation. I’ll stick with Optimus Reim on this one, he looked phenomenal against the Bruins… and he already has a badass nickname.
3) Goodbye Grabovski, Welcome back Bozie
“Mikhail wants to play in the NHL, and he wants to score against the Leafs.” That was what former Leaf Mikhail Grabovski’s agent had to say about Dave Nonis buying out the remaining four years of his dreadful $5.5 million contract. This was a shot to the heart for many Leafs fans, as Grabovski was a fan favorite due to his craftiness with the puck, impressive speed and his emotional connection with the fans. However, after a lackluster nine-goal season this year, and being relegated to the third line shutdown role, it made a lot of sense to cut ties with the Belaraus native. With that cap space freed up from Grabo hitting the road, it helped to land a re-signing with Tyler Bozak to a $4.2 million deal for the next five years. Bozak had a strong season with 28 points and was third in the league with 559 faceoff wins. Bozak is also a great friends with Leafs superstar Phil Kessel, and with this signing, the two will continue to build chemistry on and off the ice. However, the controversy over essentially dumping away ‘Grabo’ for ‘Bozie’ has been criticized by many sports analysts stating that Grabovski needs to be given another chance and Bozak isn’t worth it. Phil Kessel has been in the top in the top ten scoring for the past two years since playing with Bozak, and have had proven chemistry together. A non-risk signing, a premiere faceoff specialist, a spark-plug for Kessel and a drive to win that was exemplified in playoffs this year is what gives Tyler Bozak the edge over Graboskvi. Did I mention Bozak has better flow, too?