Toronto Maple Leafs: Camp preview
2008-09 record: 34-35-15, 12th in Eastern Conference
New faces: François Beauchemin (D), Garnet Exelby (D), Jonas Gustavsson (G), Mike Komisarek (D), Joey MacDonald (G), Colton Orr (F), Wayne Primeau (F).
Camp slogan: Bigger. Badder. Better?
"We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence."
That's how Brian Burke described his blueprint upon taking over as Leafs GM last November. The model worked for the outspoken exec in Anaheim, where he assembled a roster of large men who bulldozed their way to a Stanley Cup championship in 2007.
Burke wants to replicate that success in Toronto, where in his first summer as GM he brought in truculent defencemen Mike Komisarek and François Beauchemin — a key member of that Ducks title team — and pugnacious forwards Colton Orr and Wayne Primeau.
That's plenty of testosterone, but is it enough to return the Leafs to playoff contention?
Toronto has five home games in the pre-season and also plays in London, Ont., on Sept. 17.
Young blood: Tyler Bozak
Burke is trying to replenish the farm system, but years of buy-now-pay-later deals under former regimes have left the Leafs thin on prospects. With No. 7 overall pick Nazem Kadri still in need of some seasoning, Bozak could be the best bet for a youngster to crack the Toronto roster. He may not quite have the size Burke covets, but at 23 and with two years of collegiate hockey under his belt, Bozak appears to be the Leafs' most NHL-ready prospect.
Time to make a move: Tomas Kaberle
The even-keeled Czech moves the puck as well as anyone, but his finesse game doesn't appear to match what Burke is looking for in a defenceman. Kaberle has been the subject of trade rumours since time immemorial, and if he fails to fit in with the Leafs' beefed-up blue-line, he could be sent packing like former teammate Pavel Kubina.
X-factor: Jason Allison
Leaf fans loved to mock the heavy-legged forward for his glacial pace on penalty shots, but Allison racked up a solid 60 points in 66 games in his lone season with Toronto in 2005-06. Question is, does Allison have anything left now that he's 34 and hasn't played an NHL game in three years?
On the spot: Vesa Toskala
The Leafs ranked 10th in the NHL in scoring last season but missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year because they gave up a league-high 3.49 goals per game. For that to change, Toskala must improve on his career-worst .891 save percentage, which may have been caused partly by a hip injury that cut short his season. Toskala won't have much of a grace period to show he's healthy with highly touted Swedish import Jonas (The Monster) Gustavsson waiting in the wings.