Hornby grades the Leafs

Joffrey Lupul celebrates his game-winning goal with Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson in third...

Joffrey Lupul celebrates his game-winning goal with Cody Franson and Carl Gunnarsson in third period action against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 7, 2012 in Toronto. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI AGENCY)

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

GOALTENDERS

James Reimer C+

Element of surprise reduced in his second year, short-handed goals are a concern. But still the most technically sound of the two.

Jonas Gustavsson B-minus

Cleaned up his positional game to a large degree and has the No. 1 job — for now.

DEFENCEMAN

Luke Schenn C

Salary went up, ice time is down, but he’s avoided long funks.

Dion Phaneuf B+

Leadership mantle fits him a lot better this year.

Big jump in points.

Cody Franson B-

Looked grim at the start when the newcomer was on the bench, but has found his niche.

Mike Komisarek C+

Held to 20 games by a broken arm, but secured a spot and is a big help to younger defencemen.

John-Michael Liles B

Before a Christmas concussion sidelined him, had made Tomas Kaberle a distant memory.

Carl Gunnarsson B-

Has come a long way from an unknown sixth-rounder.

Jake Gardiner C+

Rookie made the team based on his skating, stayed on because he learned all the ropes.

Keith Aulie C

Didn’t make the team at camp after last year’s good finish, but is improving. Size is still the key.

FORWARDS

C Tim Connolly C+

Didn’t get first-line role, but helped about everywhere else. Best of all, is staying healthy.

C/LW Matthew Lombardi C

No one knew what the Leafs would get after his concussion, but full credit for his comeback.

LW Clarke MacArthur C-

Slowly coming out of the funk that gripped the whole second line. Road goals a bonus.

LW Mike Brown C

Injuries have bitten into his season again. Demotion of Colton Orr underlines his importance.

LW Joffrey Lupul A

Makes the top line a double threat with Kessel.

Points in 33 of 41 games with his nose for the net.

C David Steckel C+

Great pre-season pick-up has been strong on faceoffs, but suffered with everyone else on penalty kill.

LW Jay Rosehill C

Careful not to hurt the team in his unique role, but not needed much in this year’s quieter NHL.

RW Matt Frattin C-

Not enough goals to avoid demotion last week, but lasted 37 games and made good impression.

RW Nikolai Kulemin D-

Production greatly reduced, still plays tough, but needs to show more in a contract year.

C Tyler Bozak B

Made people think twice about their criticisms. Held first-line role until his injury, plus-minus has improved.

RW Nazem Kadri C

Resilient and confident, despite another demotion. Learned a new job at right wing. Needs a strong finish.

LW Joey Crabb C+

Has done well just about every place Ron Wilson has put him — with 12 points.

RW Darryl Boyce C+

Don’t ever tell him he can’t find a role in the NHL.

RW Phil Kessel A

Could the Leafs have an Art Ross winner here? At least they have a 40-goal scorer.

C Mikhail Grabovski B-

If the Leafs are to hold their playoff pace or stop the trade hunt for a centre, they’ll need more from him.

C Philippe Dupuis D

More was expected of a defensive player who kept Boyce and others on the farm before going there himself.

Incomplete grades

G Ben Scrivens, RW Joe Colborne, RW Colton Orr

MANAGEMENT

Coach Ron Wilson and staff C+

They are ahead of last year in points and offence, while lagging a bit behind in goals against and suffering on PK. But it should be noted they made inroads despite injuries and with a relatively young lineup. Wilson should thank Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, too.

GM Brian Burke B-

Franson, Lombardi, Steckel, Liles and Connolly are a collective upgrade. But most believe Burke has one big trade to go this year, likely for an impact forward. Until the Leafs secure a berth, don’t get over-excited about the team’s direction.

Adviser Lil Burkie A+

On-the-edge humour keeps the team light but at the same time has been know to ruffle some feathers.

Five First-half Flops

Assistant-coaching shuffle, days of practice and video still can’t improve last-place penalty killing.

Despite Ron Wilson touting his second line as good or better than the first, he eventually breaks them up.

Nine losses in December undercuts team’s best start in years.

Colby Armstrong’s terrible luck with injuries in what he hoped would be a revival year.

Handling of the Wilson contract extension. He gets new deal without a playoff spot and picks Christmas Day to announce it.

Five first-half faves

Scored 25 more goals than this time last year, solving a lot of problems.

Taking on salary from Nashville with the

Lombardi-Franson deal pays off.

Kessel, Lupul and co. put together top-five power play.

Leafs have won 10 one-goal games, on pace for fewest overtime/shootout losses in years.

Have not lost more than three games in a row.

Second-half predictions

Trade or trades for a forward of some description well before the Feb. 27 deadline.

Some kind of off-ice distraction linked to the Rogers — Bell purchase of MLSE.

Marlies will be hard-pressed to utilize so many demoted veterans vs. developing young talent.

Wilson hoping history repeats itself. Leafs are 92-63-24 after Feb. 1 since the NHL lockout.

Game 82 in Montreal will have post-season implications for Leafs or Habs.


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