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(Page 5 of 15)'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

30 in 30: Clarkson gives Maple Leafs lineup new look

Thursday, 08.22.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

The Toronto Maple Leafs finally returned to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after nearly a decade, but the ending of their first-round series with the Boston Bruins will be remembered for much longer than that.

General manager Dave Nonis had a pretty interesting summer as the Maple Leafs try to build on what was a successful regular season and move past the remarkable collapse in Game 7 against the Bruins.

Two decisions inevitably will be linked and already have been analyzed and scrutinized aplenty: Center Mikhail Grabovski was bought out, and center Tyler Bozak was given a five-year, $21 million contract. Another center, Dave Bolland, was added in a draft-day trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.

30 in 30: Goalies among Maple Leafs questions

Thursday, 08.22.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The Toronto Maple Leafs ended their NHL-long nine-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought last season, but they bowed out of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in heartbreaking fashion with a meltdown in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins.

After licking their wounds, the Maple Leafs got back up and had an interesting summer filled with transactions that drew praise and scorn across the NHL, but specifically in Toronto.

They want to believe they're on the right path with the type of tough, physical, no-holds-barred team Randy Carlyle loves to coach, but several questions face this team as it heads into 2013-14.

Here are six:

30 in 30: Gardiner's role X-factor for Maple Leafs

Thursday, 08.22.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

What if Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner didn't have a strong six-game run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? What if he didn't surprise and impress coach Randy Carlyle with his skating and decision making? What if he didn't play well enough to rediscover his confidence heading into the offseason?

What if …

OK, enough of the questions, because Gardiner did have a strong six-game run against the Boston Bruins, strong enough to surprise and impress Carlyle and to feel good about his game again.

"I want to go in there this season and be a contributor, be a difference-maker," Gardiner told

Gardiner thinks he can do it, and the Maple Leafs again have big plans for the 23-year-old defenseman, who after a forgetful, concussion-plagued 2012-13 regular season was at his best once Carlyle inserted him into the lineup for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

30 in 30: Maple Leafs move on after rough ending

Thursday, 08.22.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The Toronto Maple Leafs have to prove that snapping a nine-year Stanley Cup Playoff drought in a lockout-shortened season was the first step toward becoming a perennial contender, not a detour on what since 2004 has been their seemingly never-ending road to mediocrity.

"We were tired of being the butt of some of the jokes in the League, especially in our market, where we have fans that are very intensely involved," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle told "We had to do a better job of preparing ourselves and expecting more of ourselves to put ourselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot. We did a lot of things as a group and we're going to have to continue to grow. We can do it if we stick together, stick to the plan. We have a group that can play to a higher level. We're going to have to this season."

30 in 30: Rielly leads Maple Leafs' prospect pool

Thursday, 08.22.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The top executives inside the Toronto Maple Leafs organization want to believe they've entered a new phase with development of the NHL team, meaning there isn't, or at least shouldn't be, a lot of room for prospects on the roster this season.

Some rookies may emerge, but the Maple Leafs are hoping to have a lot of their top young players spend a full season with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

"The Marlies are going to get a lot younger," Dave Poulin, Maple Leafs vice president of hockey operations, told "There will be as many as 17 entry-level contracts down there."

Here are Toronto's top 10 prospects, according to

30 in 30: Lightning look for return to playoffs

Wednesday, 08.21.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

It's hard to imagine how the Tampa Bay Lightning finished out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth time in six years despite having the NHL's top two point-producers last season.

But it happened. At age 38, Martin St. Louis with 60 points became the oldest player to win the Art Ross Trophy, and linemate Steven Stamkos finished second with 57. But their production contributed little to the success of the team; the Lightning finished 28th in the overall standings at 18-26-4.

Offense wasn't the problem: The Lightning ranked third in the NHL averaging 3.06 goals per game. But they couldn't keep the puck out of their net, allowing 3.06 goals-per game to place 26th. A 6-1-0 start to the shortened season was followed by a 7-16-1 skid that cost coach Guy Boucher his job after two-plus seasons. Boucher's dismissal came one day after the Lightning fell behind by four goals in the first period of a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators to drop to 13-17-1.

Part of the problem was the Lightning allowed opponents to score first in 35 of 48 games. The Lightning were terrific in blowouts (10-3 in games decided by three or more goals), but poor in one-goal games (5-16; the five wins were the fewest of any team).

30 in 30: New goalie Bishop the X-factor for Lightning

Wednesday, 08.21.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Ben Bishop finally has his chance to prove he can withstand the rigors of life as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

The 26-year-old, who has a 2.67 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 45 games spanning three seasons with three teams, will have every opportunity to do so when the Tampa Bay Lightning open training camp.

"It's exciting, it's something you work your whole life for to get the chance," Bishop told The Tampa Tribune. "With Craig [Anderson] getting hurt, I had the opportunity to play a lot of games [for the Ottawa Senators], and I tried to make the most of it."

Bishop went 8-5-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage for the Senators, keeping his team's postseason hopes afloat while Anderson recuperated from a right-ankle injury. Not long after Anderson returned to claim the starting job, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman pounced near the NHL Trade Deadline.

30 in 30: Replacing Lecavalier a question for Lightning

Wednesday, 08.21.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight year following a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011, the Tampa Bay Lightning are undergoing a facelift.

Goaltending and defense proved to be the team's biggest issues in 2012-13, when the Lightning dropped to 14th in the East. That earned them the third pick in the NHL Draft, which they used to select the forward Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Drouin figures to get every chance to spend the season with Tampa Bay.

One reason there's an opening is that general manager Steve Yzerman made the tough decision to use one of his compliance buyouts on captain Vincent Lecavalier after 14 years with the organization.

Yzerman, now entering his fourth season as GM, said changes had to be made after back-to-back disappointing seasons.

30 in 30: Drouin leads Lightning's top prospects

Wednesday, 08.21.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said there's no time like the present to give a few of his team's best minor-league and junior prospects a chance in the NHL.

"I just believe we have a few guys [in the system] who have played two and three years in the minors who have really excelled at the AHL level," Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's time to give them an opportunity to play in the NHL. We've got to find out if they can play and based on what I saw in the limited time I saw them, I'm cautiously optimistic that they're going to be good players."

There were a few prospects raising eyebrows last year when given a chance with the team during the 2012-13 season, including Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn, Radko Gudas, Mark Barberio, Richard Panik and Tyler Johnson.

Conacher was traded to the Ottawa Senators in the deal that landed goalie Ben Bishop. Panik, Killorn and Gudas got lengthy look-sees. But there are several other youngsters vying for positions with the Lightning this season, most notably Jonathan Drouin, the third player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft.

30 in 30: Drouin, Filppula new to Lightning lineup

Wednesday, 08.21.2013 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 30 package: 2013-14

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

It has been a disappointing two seasons since the Tampa Bay Lightning came within one goal of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.

Jon Cooper will run an NHL training camp for the first time in 2013-14 after being named coach in March, and he could use many of the players who excelled for him at his old post with the franchise's American Hockey League affiliate with the big club.

The Lightning have collected a bushel of young talent, but being patient and waiting for those players to be ready to help Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis is easier said than done.

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