Leafs a disappointment at quarter-pole

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

RALEIGH N.C. -- The Maple Leafs reach the quarter pole of the NHL schedule Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. While they didn't expect to be leading the league at this point, it's quite shocking that last place in a 30-team league is at stake.

Here's a look at how the first quarter has unravelled:

The disappointments

- GM Brian Burke’s oft-repeated vows that this team was going to be bigger, badder and contend for a playoff spot. So far, just the part about badder has come true, and we don’t necessarily mean toughness.

- Why, with all the money MLSEL sank into a new practice facility, with video suites, state of the art weight room, the hiring of skating and goaltending instructors on top of a game night staff of four coaches, do the Leafs come out flat so often and have given up the first goal in 17 of 19 games?

- Big bucks defencemen Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin had little or no impact in first 10 games as Leafs fell behind in standings. Komisarek is now hurt, while Beauchemin is improving.

- G Vesa Toskala started out no less unpredictable after off-season surgery and tutelage of Francois Allaire, clouding the whole net picture.

- Whether it’s him or a function of what’s going on around him, D Luke Schenn has encountered the growing pains he had seemingly conquered in his rookie year.

- Top 10 NHL rookie scorers from last year, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin, are nearly invisible.

- The Leafs still are last in NHL penalty killing, not all of that a reflection of their goaltending. And they don’t do themselves any favours with so many bad minors.

- Even-strength goals are so hard to come by.

- Jason Blake, at $4 million a year, has scored twice.

- Burke has thus far not followed up threats to stick underperforming veterans in the Marlies, or at least have Wilson put them in the stands.

The Surprises

- Tomas Kaberle leading all NHL defencemen in scoring, taking more of a leadership role.

- F Jay Rosehill and D Carl Gunnarsson, two players no one heard of before camp, showed they can make a contribution.

- Toronto’s power play ranks fourth in the league.

According to plan

- RW Phil Kessel has speed to make defencemen back away and the shot to make goalies flinch.

- RW Colton Orr is not Bobby Orr but gives the Leafs their first legit enforcer since Wade Belak.

- G Jonas Gustavsson proved he can play at the NHL level, but as a No. 1 in a full schedule?

The jury’s out on

- Trading Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder.

- Viktor Stalberg. He led the team in pre-season scoring but has to work on his defence in the AHL.

- Who will be the No. 1 centre? Wilson keeps switching between Matt Stajan and John Mitchell and neither gets comfortable.

- C Rickard Wallin. Does some good things people don’t see but some things people can see and don’t like.

- G Joey MacDonald. Had a great camp and was true to his word to challenge Gustavsson and Toskala but couldn’t steal a win when it mattered.


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