Leafs' first-half grades

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:12 AM ET

Hornbyís first half grades:

Goal

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

C plus

Groin injury and the quiet rise of Reimer has clouded his future and not helped his push for a new contract in 2011.

Jonas Gustavsson

C

Not progressed as fast as hoped, but often the victim of poor offensive and defensive support.

Defence

Luke Schenn

B

Teamís best blueliner this year, erased last yearís doubts, plays tough, but has poise exiting the zone.

Dion Phaneuf

D

Much more was expected from the new captain, both in offence and overall impact. Gets into trouble with undisciplined play and a wild shot.

Francois Beauchemin

C minus

A steady defenceman and veteran presence, just not worth all that the club paid for him.

Tomas Kaberle

C minus

Highest scoring defenceman, if you can live with his soft physical play. What you see is what you get.

Mike Komisarek

D

See Beauchemin, a player most useful when he simplifies. Nice comeback from injury, but makes too much to be 5-6 defenceman.

Carl Gunnarsson

C minus

Wilson stuck with him a long time, but he needs a betters second half to stay in the mix.

Brett Lebda

D

Hoped to be doing a lot more by now than a double-digit minus player. Has played wing in a pinch

Forwards

RW Phil Kessel

C minus

Which Kessel will show up on any given night, the scorer or the sulker?

C Mikhail Grabovski

B

Lost marks for not scoring much up to mid-November, but is on a great roll now.

RW Nikolai Kulemin

B plus

Not only going to the net and standing his ground, but scoring, too, a great example to others.

LW Clarke MacArthur

B plus

So far, the best off-season pick-up Burke made. Career highs in points are coming up, at a bargain salary.

C Tyler Bozak

D

Showing signs of emerging from slow start that raised many doubts of his first-line status.

LW Kris Versteeg

C

Culture shock is dissapating for the ex-Cup winning Hawk and heís kept up his points.

RW Colby Armstrong

C

He and the team lost momentum with his finger injury. Leafs were 5-2-1 when he was hurt and better with him in.

C

LW Nazem Kadri

C minus

Now back at primary school. Troubles with the headmaster didnít help.

LW Mike Brown

C plus

Some of Burkeís old Anaheim truculence was welcomed, but a long-term finger injury wasnít

C Tim Brent

C

Surprise training camp addition beat out Kadri and held on to his checking role.

LW Fredrik Sjostrom

C

His speed and penalty killing work is valued despite the PKís poor numbers.

RW Colton Orr

C

Every team needs a policeman and Orr rarely crosses the line to put the team in trouble.

C John Mitchell

D

Up and down battle to stay in the lineup wonít be helped by his latest knee injury.

Incomplete grades: G James Reimer, D Keithe Aulie, RW Joey Crabb, LW Luca Caputi, C Darryl Boyce.

Coach Ron Wilson and staff

C minus

They have a young roster and need Burke to deliver another experienced body, but poor starts to games, special teamsí woes, plus late-game breakdowns are not all the playersí fault. The players certainly havenít quit on Wilson.

General manager Brian Burke

D

Big moves in the off-season, but no movement in standings

Five first-half flops

* Leafs wilt in three fan-friendly road buildings in Montreal, Buffalo and Ottawa, out-scored 8-1.

* Burke and Wilson criticize rookie Nazem Kadriís flaws, but let to many veterans off the hook.

* Eight games without a win (0-6-2) and 10 losses in 11 ruins a promising start.

* Waffle throwing, booing of Dion Phaneuf and ĎFire Wilsoní chants as impatient ACC gets ugly.

* Kessel goes nine games without a goal against Boston as another lottery pick looms.

Five finer points

* 4-0 start one of the best in club history.

* Newcomer Clarke MacArthur leads team in points; he Giguere and Schenn call out unwhelming teammates.

* Down 4-1 after two periods, Leafs stun Ovechkin and Caps with first win in team history when down by two and less than three minutes to go.

* Wilson - Kaberle family feud story goes away.

* Leafsí finally showing some prowess on the power play and ability to win shootouts.

Second half predictions

* Improved play next month. Leafs are 74-54-18 after Feb. 1 since the NHL lockout.

* Trades closer to the Feb. 28 NHL deadline, but the goal should be draft picks, not bodies.

* More Marlie call-ups if Leafs tumble from the race, Kadri, Aulie and more of the young defencemen.

* Contracts a big story with Kaberle, Giguere and RFAs such as MacArthur.

* Wilsonís future if he becomes the first Leaf coach to miss the playoffs three times.


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