The Big Four
Toronto has one of the most offensively effective blue lines in the League. Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe combined for 26 goals and 115 points last season. They also accounted for 13 power-play goals, including 11 off the stick of McCabe. The second pair of scorers is not nearly as dominant, but still is impressive. Pavel Kubina and Ian White combined for 10 goals and 47 points.
Just as impressive, all four of the above players finished the season with a plus rating, led by White’s plus-8. Hal Gill, a stay-at-home defender, led all Toronto defenseman with a plus-11 rating.
So, it is clear that Paul Maurice has a complement of defenders who can excel at both ends of the ice. His ability to mix and match these defenders with the up-and-coming prospects just on the horizon will determine how successful Toronto can be this year.
Get the point
The Leafs rely heavily on McCabe and Kaberle when on the power play. Each merits more than five minutes per game, which is more than double the workload heaped upon Pavel Kubina, the third choice for the power-play unit.
McCabe and Kaberle have earned the extensive power-play minutes. Thirty-four of McCabe’s 57 points last season came in man-advantage situations. Only five defenders last season managed more than those 34 points. Kaberle added 30 man-advantage points.
In shorthanded situations, the workload is distributed more liberally. Kaberle, McCabe, Gill and Kubina all average better than three minutes per game in penalty-kill situations.
In the Wings
Andy Wozniewski – The big defensemen (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) was blooded a little bit last season, playing in 15 NHL games and holding his own. He did not score much at the NHL level, but he did show a little offensive pop at the AHL level, scoring four goals and 15 points in 31 AHL games.
Anton Stralman – One of the most talked about prospects as training camp started, the 21-year-old Swede opened eyes with his strong play last season with Timra of the Swedish Elite League. After scoring just five points in his first year of top-level competition in Sweden, Stralman exploded for 10 goals and 11 assists last season in his second go-round. He appears ready for NHL duty, but whether or not that happens in the near future remains to be seen.
Staffan Kronwall – A series of injuries derailed Kronwall’s season last year, but before that he had been establishing his credentials as a valuable depth defenseman in the organization. Two years ago, he played 34 games with the parent club and was relatively steady, registering one point and a minus-3 rating.
Carlo Colaiacovo -- He has returned from a serious head injury suffered in Jan. 2006 and turned in a strong closing kick to the 2006-07 season. The first-round pick from 2001 had eight goals and nine assists in 48 games. If he can stay healthy and deliver that kind of performance through an entire season, the Leafs will be far ahead of the game.