Tonight the Buffalo Sabres square off against the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first time in this season, but it certainly wont be the last. The Leafs and Sabres have an intense rivalry known as the battle of the QEW and trust me it’s an intense rivalry north of the boarder. I get tons of crap for being a Sabres fan up here. Since the Sabres and Leafs will meet around 7 more times before the sun dawns on the 2013-2014 NHL season, we’re going to do a “Get to Know your Enemy” look at the Leafs.
Top 3 offensive threats-
The Leafs have a plethora of offensive talent- at least on the wing. Choosing just three dangerous players isn’t easy when a team has the forward depth the Leafs do, but here are their top three.
Phil Kessel- The Leafs were willing to sell their future to get their hands on Phil Kessel and while he’s no Tyler Seguin he certainly hasn’t disappointed. He’s a offencive threat every time he steps foot on the ice and is a consistent 30 goal scorer.
James van Riemsdyk- When I look at JVR I see a lot of similarities between Marcus Foligno. If Foligno can get his talent up to where JVR’s is the Sabres will have no issues. JVR is a big body, who drives the net and doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff. JVR is the perfect 2nd/3rd line player and he actually has some pretty soft hands for such a large body.
Nazem Kadri- Who else is disappointed that Darcy Regier didn’t make a move for this kid? Kadri has been on fire through the preseason and seems to be ready to improve on his last season. Kadri is the future of the Leafs, the kids got speed, talent and now that he’s becoming more mature he is beginning to play a 200 foot game. Kadri has some pretty sick moves and is extremely difficult to check, he’s slippery and has one lethal shot.
Jake Gardiner- Remember when Tyler Myers was confident enough to jump up in the rush and generate offence? That’s pretty much Gardiner’s game to a tee. He has great speed and vision on the ice and has no problem jumping up in the rush and turning a play into a 4 on 2. He’s virtually a 4th forward when he’s on the ice.
The Leafs have two goaltenders who can be legitimate number one starters, which may spell controversy but is actually great news for
Next to Joffrey Lupul, the fan favourite for Leafs fan is Colton Orr. Orr is a fighter who takes no crap from anyone and he’s mixed things up with Patrick Kaleta more than a few times. Orr is a player who can do all things, drop the mitts, lay big hits, block shots and even score goals.
Nikolai Kulemin often gets over-looked when he’s not producing on the scoreboard, but he’s one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. He works just as hard, if not harder, in his own end.
Best Offseason Move-
Acquiring David Clarkson- While the Leafs did overpay for the former New Jersey Devil, the price for Clarkson was going to be high wherever he went. He’s a tough player who can fit perfectly on a teams third line.
Letting Cody Franson Sit- Yes it was important to get Nazem Kadri locked up, but leaving arguably your best defenceman from last season out to dry isn’t smart. The Leafs screwed around with their cap space and now it’s come back to bite them, they may end up losing a top defeceman this season.
Mason Raymond- Dave Nonis, Signed Mason Raymond to a PTO to give him a shot to impress a team and as insurance in case Kadri didn’t resign. Kadri re-signed, but Raymond has looked awfully good this preseason. Will the Leafs give him a small one-year deal?
Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Know your enemy” let me know if you want to see more.