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Beauchemin Ready To Step Out Of The Shadows

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Francois Beauchemin isn’t the biggest or the fastest member of the Leafs’ drastically retooled defence.


But he has something no one else.  A Stanley Cup ring.

After four seasons riding shotgun to the peerless Scott Niedermayer including a Stanley Cup winning tour of duty in 2007, the 29-year-old Beauchemin scored a three-year-contract with the Maple Leafs.

Big & Nasty Blueline

The Leafs blue line, as presently constructed, consists of one player less than six feet tall. That’s Ian White, whose 5-11 is more like 5-9. Here’s a look at the club’s defensive corps as of July 6.
Right-handed shots Height Weight
Jeff Finger 6-1 205 lbs.
Ian White  5-11 185 lbs.
Mike Komisarek 6-4 240 lbs.
Mike Van Ryn 6-1 198 lbs.
Luke Schenn 6-2 216 lbs.
Left-handed shots Height Weight
Francois Beauchemin     6-0 213 lbs.
Garnet Exelby 6-1 210 lbs.
Tomas Kaberle 6-1 198 lbs.
Beauchemin is the third new defenceman airlifted on to the club this summer. Leafs GM Brian Burke signed ferocious free agent Mike Komisarek and traded Pavel Kubina for the hard-hitting Garnet Exelby.

Beauchemin, a six-foot, 213-pounder said after four years in Anaheim, he is ready to step out of the shadows.

“I played three years with Prongs (Chris Pronger) and four years with Scottie.  Now it’s for me to move forward and try to show what I can do. “

This isn’t to say Beauchemin can control the play like the peerless Niedermayer or abuse forwards with the vigour of the bellicose Pronger. He is a smart, poised defenceman with a good shot who logged plenty of power play time, albeit on the Ducks second unit. Beauchemin was a mainstay of the second penalty kill as well and the kind of player who was shifted to the penalty kill on his second night in the lineup after missing the first 62 games with a torn ACL in his left knee.

Burke, who had Beauchemin in Anaheim, is also no doubt mindful of his capabilities as a fighter. Beauchemin’s  lefthanded pounding of Jarome Iginla has been pointed to as a coming of age moment for the Ducks in the 2006 playoffs and he devastated Tomas Kopecky of the Red Wings in another playoff fight this year.

“My style is an aggressive style,” said the native of Sorel, Quebec. “I want to be solid in the ‘d’  zone. I like to contribute offensively when I can. I want to be hard to play against.”

Beauchemin’s signing adds another body to a crowded blue line.

The Leafs are certain to return Jeff Finger, Ian White, Exelby, Komisarek, Mike Van Ryn and
of course Luke Schenn. Beauchemin is now on board while Tomas Kaberle, the team’s longest serving player, is on the trading block.

Waiting in the wings are Jonas Frogren, Anton Stralman and Phil Oreskovic.

Beauchemin brings a powerful shot, he scored four times this season but only six of his career 21 goals have come on the power play.

The toughening of the blue line likely means more work for Ian White, probably the fastest defenceman and likely the one who will be asked to set up the power play should Kaberle be traded.

With the addition of another physical-first defenceman, the question about Kaberle’s worth intensifies. The Leafs are plenty tough but they may face a deficit in moving the puck out of the defensive zone.  Do they have enough offensive expertise left to deal Tomas Kaberle?

Beauchemin’s greatest worth may not be in the great players he has played with but rather the top six-forward his arrival could make possible.
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