Maple Leafs bank on newcomers making a difference | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaMaple Leafs bank on newcomers making a difference

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2013 | 12:03 PM

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Newly acquired netminder Jonathan Bernier is one of many Maple Leafs players who finds himself squarely in the spotlight. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) Newly acquired netminder Jonathan Bernier is one of many Maple Leafs players who finds himself squarely in the spotlight. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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CBC Sports is previewing each of the seven Canadian teams leading up to opening night of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here, the Toronto Maple Leafs step into the spotlight.

CBC Sports is previewing each of the seven Canadian teams leading up to opening night of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here, the Toronto Maple Leafs step into the spotlight.

The skinny

The Maple Leafs ended a seven-season playoff drought last spring, but badly crumbled late in Game 7 of the first round against the Boston Bruins ... Maple Leafs management believe they have upgraded their talent with the off-season additions of David Clarkson, Dave Bolland, Jonathan Bernier and successful tryout invitee Mason Raymond, who earned a one-year contract, over the subtractions of Ben Scrivens, Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Matt Frattin ... But the trade for Bernier with the Los Angeles Kings have put the Maple Leafs close to the salary-cap limit ... Veteran defenceman Cody Franson, who played well for Toronto in the playoffs, settled his contract dispute with a one-year, $2-million contract ... Defenceman Paul Ranger, who performed for the AHL Toronto Marlies last season, has enjoyed an impressive camp. He hasn't played a game in the NHL since Oct. 22, 2009, when he left the Tampa Bay Lightning to deal with some personal issues ... Both Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are in the final season of existing deals and this no doubt will be a topic of discussion all season, especially as the trade deadline nears. 

Three questions: Claude Loiselle

  • The Maple Leafs training camp was eventful with the Franson contract squabble, the [Joffrey] Lupul and [Frazer] McLaren injuries and now the 10-game suspension to Clarkson. How much will this hinder your team in the early part of the season?

"You don't want to have players suspended, you don't want to see injuries and you don't want to see players remain unsigned. But at the end of the day, it gives other players an opportunity.

"Guys step up when you face adversity. We feel we've added some pieces.

"Unfortunately, we can't have all those pieces in place when we start the season. But I still think we're going to be fine."

  • Can you pick one or two players who moved up the Maple Leafs depth chart because of a strong training camp?

"Morgan Rielly. I know he's highly touted and was a first-round draft pick, but he's come in and played really strong. The other kid who has played really well for us is [defenceman] Stuart Percy [who was demoted to the Marlies this week].

"He and Morgan played terrific at our rookie tournament. [Percy] has come out and played with poise. He's not the most physical guy, but he's made some great plays and he's not afraid to go in the corners and come out with the puck."

  • Are the Maple Leafs over what happened in Game 7 against the Bruins?

"You have to go through adversity. It's the only way to take the next step. It was heartbreaker and I'm not sure we're over it. I'm not sure you ever get over something like that. It will always be in the back of minds.

"You want the guys to be thinking about it. Every game matters, every point matters, whether it's in October, November or early April. You have to get your points to get to the playoffs. It's like raising children. You can't tell them that hard lessons will only make you better, but it's something you have to get through."

Player on hot seat

Bernier. The 25-year-old goalie from Laval, Que., arrives in Toronto with only 62 games of NHL experience and 30 minutes of playoff experience. He also makes $2.9-million a season, so if he doesn't upgrade the level of goaltending that James Reimer provided last season, it will be a major downer for general manager Dave Nonis. 

Training camp development

Newcomer Clarkson was suspended for the first 10 games of the season after he left the Maple Leafs bench in order to come to the aid of teammate Phil Kessel in a late-game line brawl, one in which Buffalo Sabres enforcer John Scott went after the sniper. The Maple Leafs, who led the league last year with 44 fighting majors (Columbus was second at 34), were caught without one of their thugs on the ice. Clarkson will miss games against the Canadiens, Flyers, Senators, Avalanche, Predators, Oilers, Wild, Hurricanes, Blackhawks and Ducks.

Key stat

20-2-1 -- Record for the Maple Leafs when leading after two periods in the regular season, second best only to the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (26-1-2) last year. They also were 2-0 in the playoffs when leading after two periods, which makes it even more difficult for Maple Leafs fanatics to stomach their team's third-period meltdown in their post-season finale.

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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