Well, its that time of year again. Hockey season is about to truly return in full swing, and more importantly for us Maple Leafs faithful the boys are back in town for another shot at the playoffs.
Now rather than entertain you with some sort of generic season preview article (which might be expected right about now), I've decided to put something together for all the fans shopping for a new jersey to rep Leafs nation with. The idea stemmed from two things: A) The only Leafs jerseys I can call my own dawn the names of Kris Versteeg and Jonas Gustavsson, not exactly two names I'd be comfortable walking around with on a regular basis. That being said, I'm in the market for a new Leafs jersey that hopefully has a bit of a longer shelf life. Oh, and B) I haven't written a hockey-related article in quite some time. So without further ado, your 2011-2012 Toronto Maple Leafs Jersey Buyers Guide (note: the list is ordered numerically):
#2 Luke Schenn - D
Pros: Young, tons of potential, already coming into his own, a leader, a physical force and an all-around superhero.
Cons: May have a reduced impact this season given the logjam on defense? I don't know, this one to me seems like a bit of a slam dunk.
#3 Dion Phaneuf - D
Pros: Physical force, the captain, part of the second-funniest Leafs-Flames deal in NHL history, really came into his own in certain aspects of the game at the end of last season.
Cons: May not be around forever, still certainly a risk that he never returns to the Dion Phaneuf that was nominated for a Norris Trophy.
#4 Jeff Finger - D
Cons: He is Jeff Finger. Also, he probably won't be in the NHL this season.
#8 Mike Komisarek - D
Pros: He might return to actually being good?
Cons: At the moment he is overpaid, slow, stupid and expendable if another team actually ever wants to take on his contract.
#9 Colby Armstrong - RW
Pros: Hilarious, hard-nosed and something of a leader on this young Leafs team.
Cons: With a depth of young talent up front and a salary cap era defined by turnover, his long-term future with the team is uncertain.
#11 Phillippe Dupuis - C
Cons: Fourth-liner who has proven nothing in a Leafs uniform so far.
#12 Tim Connolly - C
Pros: He's new, and seemingly the first-line center.
Cons: Darkhorse candidate for Leafs nation whipping boy, injury prone, short-term deal, probable stopgap.
#15 Matthew Lombardi - C
Pros: New, fast, good for 50~ points, acquired in the trade we ditched Lebda in.
Cons: Future with the team is uncertain due to his short-term contract and serious concussion issues.
#16 Clarke MacArthur - LW
Pros: Gotta love his story, good guy, hard-worker and a serviceable top-six forward if he repeats last season's production.
Cons: Only signed for two more years, still some skepticism about his ability to repeat what he did last year.
#18 Mike Brown - Wing
Pros: Young, fast, hard-working, fu manchu, all-around badass.
Cons: He's nothing more and nothing less than a fourth-liner.
#19 Joffrey Lupul - Wing
Pros: New (sort of), should score 25~ goals this year, entertaining Twitter account.
Cons: Arguably overpaid, prone to some dumb decisions, may not be a long-term fixture on this roster.
#22 Cody Franson - D
Pros: New, young, grew up a Leafs fan, tons of potential as a puck-mover, we got rid of Brett Lebda for him.
Cons: Tough to tell how many minutes he gets, at least this season, with the logjam on defense.
#24 John-Michael Liles - D
Pros: Essentially brought in to do what Kaberle did for us, plus the fact that he isn't horribly soft and actually shoots the puck.
Cons: Only on contract for one more year, can be underwhelming defensively at times.
#26 Mike Zigomanis - C
Pros: Grapes likes him, and so does everyone else, basically because he's efficient on faceoffs.
Cons: May not even crack the big club this season, fourth-liner at best.
#28 Colton Orr - RW
Pros: An entertaining, all-around badass.
Cons: Concern over his ability to play healthy after suffering a serious concussion in January, fourth-liner.
#29 Matt Lashoff - D
Pros: He's on iTunes.
Cons: Marginal NHLer.
#32 Joe Colborne - C
Pros: Young, skilled, lots of potential.
Cons: Should be a Toronto Marlie for the season.
#33 Luca Caputi - Wing
Pros: Might be on the team a bit if injuries arise. Young. Awesome song about him.
Cons: Joey Crabb potential.
#34 James Reimer - G
Pros: Entertaining, effective, all-around good guy, young.
Cons: Probably gonna be a real popular jersey choice this year, minor doubts about whether he's the real deal.
#36 Carl Gunnarsson - D
Pros: Good on special teams, satisfactory puck-mover, young and European.
Cons: Potential may be limited, will have to continue to fight for his ice-time.
#38 Jay Rosehill - Wing
Cons: Fourth-liner at best.
#39 Matt Frattin - Wing
Pros: Hobey Baker Hattrick Finalist, booming shot, young, good story.
Cons: Should be a Marlie this year, limited potential.
#41 Nikolai Kulemin - Wing
Pros: Young, scored 30 goals last season, has the four S's (size, shot, speed and skill) plus smart two-way play.
Cons: An RFA at the end of the year, but he will presumably be back. Another slam dunk if you ask me.
#42 Tyler Bozak - C
Pros: Kills penalties, wins faceoffs, sometimes out-of-your-seat entertaining and Call of Duty fanboy.
Cons: Probably a bottom-sixer, future with the team debateable and causes his fair share of face-palms.
#43 Nazem Kadri - LW/C
Pros: Lots of potential, explosive and entertaining.
Cons: Not a great three-zone player, awkward number, not safe from the AHL just yet.
#46 Joey Crabb - Wing
Pros: Cool last name?
Cons: A Toronto Marlie if the big club stays healthy.
#47 Darryl Boyce - C
Pros: Lots of tattoos and a mangled nose.
Cons: Fourth-liner/healthy scratch/Marlie.
#50 Jonas Gustavsson - G
Pros: He's the Monster, lots of (waning) potential.
Cons: This season is basically his last shot to prove he can play in the NHL in any capacity.
#51 Jake Gardiner - D
Pros: Young, fast, new, good potential.
Cons: Probably a Marlie for now.
#59 Keith Aulie - D
Pros: Young, up and coming shutdown defenseman. Good old Canadian boy (thumbs up).
Cons: Might be tough for him to become a great shutdown defender if his puck movement remains so poor. Weird number that he might not even keep forever.
#81 Phil Kessel - RW
Pros: The most explosive forward on the team, loads of potential.
Cons: Already a popular jersey, prone to long slumps and hurt feelings.
#84 Mikhail Grabovski - C
Pros: The best goal-scoring center on the team, clutch.
Cons: With guys like Connolly, Bozak and Lombardi around and Colborne and McKegg's rising development, his long-term future with the club may be uncertain. Not to mention he is in line for a big pay raise.