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Leafs ready to start the season

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Tony Care


The Leafs start their 75th NHL season with visions of making a major run in this year's playoffs. When Toronto lost to New Jersey in the second round last season, the team knew it had to make changes offensively after living off only one line that was a consistent threat in the playoffs.

Depth was a problem, so the organization went out and tried to remedy the situation. During the summer, the Leafs added Alexander Mogilny, Mikael Renberg, Robert Reichel and Travis Green to bolster the scoring although those players are also known to play solid defensive hockey as well.

The Leafs hope that the new additions will give them three legitimate scoring lines once combined with returning players such as Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts, Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker.

A revitalized and diversified attack was evident in the preseason but the changes made to improve in that area may have come at the cost of not sufficiently upgrading the blueline corps. With the season ready to begin for Toronto on Wednesday night when division rival Ottawa comes to Air Canada Centre, here is an assessment of each position for the Leafs:

Forwards:

As it appears now, Leafs coach Pat Quinn will have Sundin centre an all-Swedish line with Renberg and Jonas Hoglund on the wings. The second line will consist of Reichel, Mogilny and Roberts while Green will play between Corson and Tucker to form a feisty line of checkers who can also put the puck in the net

During the preseason, the forwards have shown flashes of offensive power. Sundin seems to be meshing well with his wingers but a return for Renberg to the scoring exploits early in his career will be important.

In the short time that Mogilny has been a Leaf he's shown what a terrific sniper he can be for the team. Reichel looks like he needs a little more time to develop chemistry with his knew linemates, but Roberts should help speed up the process. The rugged winger looks feistier than ever and gives Mogliny and Reichel more room to create plays. Roberts and Reichel played together in Calgary when the Czech centreman had his best years in the NHL.

While the Green acquisition didn't receive much publicity, he is an important part to the Leafs' success. In essence, Green is taking the place of departed centre Yanic Perreault. Green is strong on faceoffs and is a good defensive forward, but the two-time 20-goal scorer also should provide the Leafs with some punch.

Most of the intrigue during training camp swirled around which players would make up the fourth line. Alyn McCauley won himself a spot with the big boys by having a stellar camp and preseason. He will likely get minutes there but must continue the effort he displayed or risk being sent back down to St. John's.

With Tie Domi serving an eight-game suspension to start the year, there will be more time available for the surplus of players here, including Garry Valk, Bob Wren and Nik Antropov. Even though Valk was exposed during the waiver process, the team likes what he can bring. Wren has been a surprise despite not getting much attention after he signed. Antropov continues to tantalize with his talent and has played well in spurts but remains inconsistent.

Part II of this Leafs season preview
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