The Toronto Maple Leafs have been under fire from fans lately as they have fallen to thirteenth position in the Eastern Conference and the fourth worst record in the NHL. This would give the Bruins another high draft pick (fourth for those of you who are mathematically challenged) which would increase media scrutiny on Brian Burke (if that's even possible).
The reality is that this team has been bitten by the injury bug, which had not happened early on thus creating the illusion that the Leafs are one of the best teams in the NHL. However, they may not be that far off from competing for the Stanley Cup. After all, there are only 22 players on a team and the Leafs are soon going to get three of them back (Dion Phaneuf, Colby Armstrong, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere). So the question becomes are these additions enough to make them a playoff team?
I would argue they are, assuming the team stays relatively healthy for the season. The reason is that Phaneuf is one of the best defenceman we have (Luke Schenn's the best and I still think he's our future captain). Then there's Armstrong who will solidify the bottom six forwards, and Giguere would give poor Jonas Gustavsson a break.
So we are a playoff team, in my opinion. However, even I don't think we are going to win the Stanley Cup with this team. So the question is what do we need?
For goaltenders, I believe we're set. Giguere is a solid goaltender (though he hasn't played like it this year) and Gustavsson has been simply outstanding.
For defence I would argue once Phaneuf comes back we have too many defenceman. We have Tomas Kaberle, Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, Schenn, Keith Aulie, Brett Lebda, and Carl Gunnarsson. As a result one of them has to go, and if there's any truth to the Beauchemin for Setoguchi trade rumours hopefully it is done.
So now we get to offence. I like the bottom six. Tim Brent, Mike Brown, Colton Orr, Armstrong, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Kris Versteeg. Great bottom six defenders. But our problem was always putting pucks in the net. So what do we have for that.
But the first line is where we lack talent and why we're in trouble. Kessel is a legitimate stud. The question is if Kadri can play at centre. He needs to play there, because we need a big winger to play with Kessel, and Kadri is not exactly big. So we definitely need a power forward winger. The second issue is the centre position. I don't think Kadri is ready for the centre, as a result we need to acquire a legitimate first line centre.This is easier said than done as nobody wants to give up a centre, but more importantly what would we do with Nazem Kadri?
So really, the Leafs are just a power forward winger, and first line centre away from making a deep run, and probably would have to upgrade Kulemin into a better power forward to be a legitimate contender. Three players may not sound like a lot but remember that's 14% of the team. So actually it is quite a change.