He was acquired by the Leafs from Phoenix with little attention. All the talk was how his teammate with Coyotes, Robert Reichel, would boost Toronto's offence. But after the Leafs 5-2 preseason victory over the Penguins on Friday night, it's easy to see how important Travis Green can be to the team when he plays effectively.
Green, playing on a line with Shayne Corson and Jeff Farkas had a goal and an assist, but more importantly, played a solid two-way game. He was originally credited with the first goal of the game but it was later given to Farkas. When the season begins, Darcy Tucker is expected to replace Farkas on Toronto's third line in what looks to be a promising trio.
Green will be a vital addition as a third-line centre. He has scored 20 or more goals three times, but his strength is clearly taking faceoffs and playing defence. The Leafs traded for Green so he could take the place of the departed Yanic Perreault, one of the top faceoff men in the NHL.
In the 1999-2000 season, Green ranked first with the Coyotes in total faceoffs taken (1,322) and faceoff winning percentage (55.6). If Green can at least duplicate those statistics this year with Toronto he'll be an invaluable part of the team come playoff time.
"That's why we got him," said Tucker. "He's a key part of the deal. Obviously, he's good on faceoffs, plus, he adds grit to the team."
He will never be mistaken for a 50-goal scorer, but on this team, he doesn't have to be. On nights - like Friday - where Mats Sundin leads the team in goals, Green just has to play a solid game at both ends of the ice. The Leafs hope he can revert back to the three years when the 30-year-old from Castlegar, B.C. was scoring between 20-25 goals.
However, Green struggled last season in Phoenix, scoring 13 goals 69 games. While he'd obviously like to improve those numbers, he doesn't feel every player on the team has to score like Sundin, but timely goals still need to be scored.
"You can't just rely on one or two lines," said Green. "You have to really get contributions from everyone. You look at the teams that win, they usually have guys that are scoring from the first to the fourth line. Obviously, the third and fourth lines aren't going to score as much, but there's going to be nights when those lines are going to have to carry the load."
Playing with Corson and Tucker seems like a natural fit for Green. Both players are physical, which will create more space for Green to make plays. Corson was very effective in last year's playoffs of shutting down the opposition's top line. However, because the Leafs lacked scoring depth, they couldn't beat the Devils in Game 7. Now, with two potential scoring lines, the Leafs have a third that can a least hold its own.
"Anyone in the league would want to play with those two guys (Tucker and Corson)," said Green.