In stepping up for my shot at Plan the Parade's Crystal Ball Challenge the first thing I realized is that the Leafs are thin on the right side. Stempniak and Mayers are the only natural RWs on this club. That's thinner than the "after" photo in a brochure for a fat kids camp.
Here's the first prediction that I'm going to get completely wrong: given the paucity of RWs available as UFAs, the Leafs will swing a deal this off-season that includes a RW (Dustin Penner, anyone? I hope the Leafs take a pass, but he's young, big, plays the right side and won the Cup in Anaheim with Burke. On the other hand, he was a Murray signing...)
The left side isn't deep so much as it's crowded: Blake, Hagman, Poni, Kulemin and Tlusty. Wrong prediction number two: these five will be with the Leafs on opening day.
Up the middle, the current line-up doesn't reflect Burke's philosophy of two scoring centres and two players with what Burke likes to call "sunny dispositions." Wrong prediction number three: Stajan's gone and a couple of Burke cronies are coming to town as UFAs on short-term deals. This gives the kids an extra year with the Marlies, fits in with Burke's "change the culture" mandate and also means the Leafs will spend to the cap just as Burke promised.
On D, the Leafs will likely move one of Kubina or Kaberle. I'm hoping they hold on to Kaberle (or Kubina cancels his contract for those balsa wood hockey sticks). It frees up some cap space and will enable the Leafs to get a bit tougher in their own end. Wrong prediction number four: Burke targets Beauchemin this off-season for Finger-like money.
Wrong prediction number five: Leaf fans will become very familiar with waiver exemption rules as Hanson, Stalberg, Stralman, Mitchell, Berry and others go back and forth from Leafs to Marlies throughout the season (who am I kidding? Leafs Nation will never figure out the waiver rules.) I foresee angry debates when capable youngsters get sent back to the Marlies while Frogren, Tlusty and others remain with the Leafs as they're no longer waiver exempt.
My final erroneous prediction: the Leafs miss on Jonas Gustavsson and sign a UFA keeper
My predicted line-up: