Here is the second part of our look at the Leafs as they embark on the 2001-02 season: Defencemen:
If the preseason is any indication, then the Leafs' defence looks like it could struggle this year. Quinn has repeatedly expressed his disappointment in the giveaways by his defencemen in their own zone although forwards have also contributed to that total. With Tomas Karble's situation unresolved, Dmirty Yushkevich and Bryan McCabe have been the team's only two defencemen playing with any consistency. McCabe seems more confident with every shift and will look to lead the Leafs' defence in scoring. Yushkevich is always a solid two-way player and this year shouldn't be any different.
| The Leafs hope to have many celebrations in their 75th anniversary season. |
However, Aki Berg, Cory Cross, Anders Erikkson and Dave Manson all need to step up their play. Berg played very well during last year's playoff run after arriving from the Kings in March but will need to maintain that level of play, something he has yet to do in his first five NHL seasons. He and Cross have had too many giveaways in their own end and need to keep speedy wingers from getting around them. Eriksson has shown flashes of his offensive skills in the preseason but he too needs to be more consistent and, like this crop of defencemen, more physical when it comes to clearing attackers in front of the Leafs net. Goaltenders:
Curtis Joseph is the undisputed No.1 goalie for the team and he looks to be in midseason form. Facing the best shooters in the world for four days at Canada's Olympic orientation camp in early September seems to have given him an edge. Joseph was absolutely spectacular in Toronto's final preseason game against Detroit on Sunday and isn't bothered by the stalled talks for a new contract with the team. As another asset, Joseph is also healthier to start the season than he was in last year's camp when he suffered a groin injury.
The hope for this year was that rookie goalie Mikael Tellqvist would be ready to back up Joseph. Tellqvist has struggled however and the recently signed Corey Schwab will start the year as Cujo's caddy. The Leafs still think Tellqvist can be the goalie of the future, but the rookie will start year in St. John's. Quinn would like to see Joseph's playing time cut this year to keep him fresh for the playoffs, so Schwab may see more playing time than recently retired Glenn Healy did last year.