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What The Leafs Need To Be Successful

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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The Maple Leafs open their regular season Thursday at Air Canada Centre against the Montreal Canadiens.

That leaves just one more day for looking back.

It‘s not tough for an outsider to assess what the Leafs need to improve in order to reach their stated goal of a playoff spot.

Last season the Leafs finished 29th in goals against. They were fifth from the bottom in goals for, dead last on the power play and penalty kill and 9-14 in overtime and shootouts. They harvested one point in their first eight games. Not surprisingly, the Leafs finished 14 points behind eighth-place Montreal.

We spoke to 10 Leafs as well as coach Ron Wilson and asked what the team needed most to make the post-season. Here is an edited version of their answers.

Mike Brown, F:  “I think what we need most is for everybody to understand the system. We have a lot of young guys here so they should have the energy. Obviously, your penalty killing and power play is going to be big but we have to play better five on five. Sometimes if you run into a team with a good power play and your penalty kill can’t match it, you need that solid five-on-five play to make the difference.”

Fredrik Sjostrom, F: “Getting off to a good start, that’s really important. There has been so much talk about special teams, both the penalty kills and the power plays have to do well. I’m not saying they have to be number one in the league, but it has to be good. Then I think a lot of the young guys have to play well.”

Colby Armstrong, F: “I think if you look around the league you can see teams that have more high end players than us. It’s going to be hard work for us. We talked about it through the exhibition season.  We have to win games in the third. The league is tough. We’re going to have to be ready every night."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G: “There should be no reason why we can’t work hard. When you are a young team, you should have all kinds of energy.  We need a good power play and the penalty kill has to be in the top 10 if you ask me. We need to be good defensively. Anybody can be good defensively. If we do these things and don’t give up too many goals, I know we’ll score enough to win some games."

Tyler Bozak, F: “I think everyone in here believes we can win. That’s really the main part. From the coaching staff to everyone down the roster, we believe we can win. I think we’re going to surprise a few people."

Carl Gunnarsson, D: “We have to move the puck quick, especially the D. Quick movement. Quick feet. We need a good forecheck, too. The goaltending is great. We don’t have to worry about it.”

Luke Schenn, D: “Our power pay and penalty kill haven’t been top notch, as everyone knows. Whether the penalty kill goes up and your power play goes up, that’s the difference between winning and losing games.  I think we lost a lot of games in overtime. Maybe we can better that. It also seemed that weekday games at home, we didn’t have the best starts. We need to come out ready to play."

Clarke MacArthur, F: I think being a good disciplined team, not just in terms of penalties but in terms of systems.  We have good systems here. The sooner we can get that down the better.  We have a lot of speed. We’re going to force pucks hard and we want to get in there and stir things up. We want to be a team you hate to play against, especially in our rink."

Kris Versteeg, F: The biggest thing is to continue to improve. You have to do it daily. We have a young group, we want to keep improving. We have to play our game to be successful and if we do that, we will be fine."

Mike Komisarek, D: “We have to be solid defensively and that starts with the defenceman and the goalie. We need to move pucks out. Our guys are talented enough to get goals, that’s the biggest thing.”

Ron Wilson, Coach: “First, we have to get off to a better start. We need special teams improvement and we need good goaltending. I think we’re going to have all three. I think we’re going to get off to a good start, I have seen huge improvement in our special teams and I know our goaltending is as strong as at any time since I came here.”
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