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Insider reveals the massive hole that the leafs need to fill to succeed


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Julien Trekker
August 11, 2023  (10:12)
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Leafs' Massive Hole

The Maple Leafs and Brad Treliving have made significant progress this summer. They implemented numerous changes to their roster, but there is still a lot of work to be done before the start of the season.
Insiders have discussed what's lacking in Toronto, and the answer is simple: the blue line.
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Bolstering the Blue Line

Here's what was discussed on TSN's First Up:
"What's the biggest hole in the Leafs lineup right now? I know it may not be a massive crater, but if you look at the Leafs roster right now, what's one area where you'd like to see them improve? Frankly, for me, it's pretty obvious: the blue line.

In my opinion, it needs to be someone who meets a few different criteria. First, they need to be big. Second, they need to have some range and a long reach. Third, they should be able to break up plays below the goal line, be strong in front of the net, and win a lot of battles. I don't mind if a defenseman throws big hits in the neutral zone and everyone sees some flair and dazzle behind it. It's great if they have that. However, those moments from game to game are rare. I just want someone who can clear the front of the net, break up cycles down low, move the puck fairly decently, and remain competent with the puck. Finding such a player is challenging. We saw that this year with unrestricted free agency. The player fitting this description was demanding a premium price that the Leafs couldn't afford.

That's the one glaring hole for me: they need that kind of presence on the blue line. When discussing the Leafs' blue line as a whole, it's interesting how the focus shifted from goaltending. This isn't to say that the blue line is a new dilemma for the Maple Leafs, but due to their slightly above-average goaltending, I think most people are content with that. As we've seen in the NHL, above-average goaltending can win you a Stanley Cup. You don't necessarily need a Vasilevskiy or a Shesterkin, someone in the running for the Vezina Trophy. Whether it was Jack Campbell, Ilya Sampsonoff, or Joseph Wall, they've all provided a solid position to succeed.

The offense in the playoffs has been lacking. So, if we're talking about the postseason, I believe scoring depth is an area of concern for many. But overall, it's quite challenging to make any kind of argument against the blue line and the absence of a defensive stalwart who's tough and makes life difficult for opponents. The reputation that the Maple Leafs have often had, especially in the playoffs, is that they're too easy to play against. They're too easily entered into their zone, too easily let opponents possess the puck and control zone time.

Initially, I thought you might be going in the direction of a rugged player like a Radko Gudas, but then you mentioned that you don't only want a player who lays big hits. You also mentioned specific criteria. For me, I think it's great if a player can deliver a big hit. I find it impressive. However, it's not my top priority. When I think of that type of player, is Radko Gudas that kind of player? Luke Schenn was that kind of player. Even Vegas has three or four of those guys, and they move quite well and pass the puck effectively. They're big, strong, rangy, and they make it incredibly challenging for opponents in tight areas of the ice – corners, behind the net, and in front of the net. This is something the Leafs will require.

When you look at the current roster and the players who are there right now, they lack that type of player. They have some puck movers and steady individuals, but they don't have the specific presence I'm referring to."

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Insider reveals the massive hole that the leafs need to fill to succeed

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