One thing needs to be said, I love what Burke has done with the roster thus far and am rather excited (more so then usual) for the Preseason. But one thing I have noticed is that this team lacks something seen as a fixture in all of Brian Burke's rosters, toughness.
Now before I start getting bombarded with hateful replies, note that I don't mean we need more Goons (Rosehill and Orr are talent-less enough), I mean toughness. This team has some players with chips on their shoulders and the ability to draw penalties like Kadri and Armstrong. Which is great but one thing that has come to my attention is how much weaker physically the leafs have gotten. With the addition of Connoly and Lombardi, Liles and Franson (all players not exactly known for their grittiness) the Leafs have gained allot of additional offensive firepower but have also lost some of their ability to win puck battles along the boards and battles in front of the net and the ability to block shots. I worry about the teams ability to challenge other teams physically, this is especially the case with our offensive lines.
As it stands, it appears the Leafs starting line up will look something like this.
Lupul -Connolly- Kessel
Mac -Grabo- Kule
Kadri -Bozak/Lombardi- Armstrong
Brown -Dupuis/Zigo/Boyce- Orr(God I hate the fact he's there)
Now the 4th line of the Leafs certainly has added grit with the addition of Dupuis(heard nothing but good things) but the top 3 lines lack any physicality whatsoever(Kul-aid is good along the boards but intimidating he is not). This is especially the case with the first line which appears to be soft as all hell. I have no idea who will crash the net or win the battles on the boards, or be able to land a hit for that matter. Many people I have had discussions with feel confident in Lupul to be the physical presence needed for that line but I'm not so sure. He can certainly handle himself but I doubt he will be able to protect his line mates and do the dirty work. I believe that either Army or Kul-aid will get the call up to the first line, but this just creates a whole new problem on their lines.
The leafs as it stands has one of the smallest and lightest offensive cores in the NHL (197 avg. weight and 6 ft tall, using NHL.com and numbers are likely exaggerated to make the players look larger!!!). Not only that but they also now have one of the most fragile offensive cores in the NHL(Injury plagued players include Lupul, Connolly, Lombardi, Army). One thing I am grateful for is that the leafs have certainly gotten deeper which should very much help when injuries begin to fly in(we were beyond lucky last season). The Leafs defense seems to have some toughness and grittiness which hopefully will assist the offensive core as well.
When I first saw that the Leafs moved up the draft in order to acquire Tyler Biggs, I was ready to jump into my television and strangle Burke. Now I can't help but feel that Burke noticed that despite the newly aquired talent that this roster now has, there actually may be a need for more truculence(watch the face).
Anyway thanks for letting me have this little rant and hopefully it sparks some discussion. I personally hope that Burke can add some kind of grittiness to our top nine, otherwise I see the leafs struggling to get the dirty goals that are needed to win us some games.
GO LEAFS GO!