Leafs could use a blue-chipper like Duchene

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:02 AM ET

The Maple Leafs are one of the youngest teams in the National Hockey League, but they lack what the Colorado Avalanche and so many other teams have.

It’s a bona fide blue-chipper, and for the Avs, it’s Matt Duchene, who has had nothing approaching a sophomore jinx. The Haliburton native has 26 goals and 33 assists in 71 games after recording 55 points last season.

Duchene has the talent to be a top-line star, someone the Avalanche genuinely can build around, for years. He’s with Colorado because the club didn’t trade away a top draft pick, instead using the third pick overall in 2009.

Leafs general manager Brian Burke can trade for all the Phil Kessels that he wants. But turning a cold shoulder to the draft and potential cornerstones has to result in a much bumpier road to success.

From the hash marks

If the Leafs’ late surge surprises anyone, then they don’t understand the impact James Reimer has had on the club. In the past nine road games that Reimer has started and had a decision, the Leafs have won eight and lost one in overtime. That’s 17 points of a possible 18 for the non-math wizards in the crowd. Isn’t it time for Burke to enter into serious contract talks with Ray Petkau, the agent for Reimer? ... Perhaps the crushing body check by Mike Komisarek on Mark Olver in the first period is just what the Leafs defenceman needs to get his game going again. When Komisarek was brimming in confidence with the Montreal Canadiens, he used to make hits like that with regularity. Nice of fellow Avalanche rookie and former St. Michael’s Majors stalwart Cameron Gaunce to step in and fight Komisarek, even if he lost badly. Undoubtedly, there will be hand-wringing over Komisarek’s hit, but aside from being a bit late, it appeared to be fine ... When forwards play the point on a power play, it can lead to dicey situations, but Kessel did a fairly good job in keeping the oncoming Avs to the outside when they scored their first goal. Only because of a lucky bounce off Dion Phaneuf was Daniel Winnik able to make it 1-0 ... That’s two games in a row that Tim Brent has come all the way back to clear a puck from the front of an open Leafs net. Slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, Brent has done enough all season to earn a contract with another NHL club if he is not re-signed by the Leafs ... Reimer looked to be left alone by the defence pair of Phaneuf and Keith Aulie late in the second period, making several large saves, including one on Milan Hejduk. But Phaneuf and Aulie could not get off the ice and were in the midst of finished a shift that lasted one minute 48 seconds ... Even in a year when more was expected from him, Kessel is one goal away scoring at least 30 for the third consecutive season. Imagine what he would have without those long goal-less streaks.

Point shots

For what it’s worth, the Leafs’ top four forwards in scoring — Mikhail Grabovski, Kessel, Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin — all have passed their own points totals of last season, something that should bode well for the future. Tyler Bozak also has more points than he had a year ago, but it’s a deceiving fact. Bozak has 29 points in 75 games after recording 27 in 37 games a year ago. Were Bozak’s rookie stats an aberration? Was the coaching staff unable to coax more out of him this season? In about a year, we should have a better idea which is closer to the truth ... Bozak’s decision to pass up a beautiful scoring chance in the middle period by dishing off to Kessel was the kind of play that comes from guys who think they have a ticking bomb on their sticks. Not long after, Bozak redeemed himself when he made a sharp deflection of a Luke Schenn shot behind Colorado goaltender Brian Elliott ... And how about another nice move by Schenn? He went coast to coast against the Boston Bruins last weekend and moments before setting the table for Bozak, made a deft deke to coolly get around Winnik at the Avalanche blue line. That kept the Leafs in control of the puck ... Only one team can win a trade, and guess which one has come out ahead in the deal that saw the Ottawa Senators acquire goalie Craig Anderson from the Avs for Elliott? Hint — it was not Colorado. Anderson signed a four-year extension with Ottawa this week and is 7-4-0 with a .940 save percentage for the Senators. Elliott, before Thursday night, was 2-5-1 with a .891 save percentage for Colorado ... The Leafs improved to 22-0-4 when leading after 40 minutes.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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