It looks like Brian Burke's work is finally paying off. Its been a little over 3 years since Burke was hired as President and General Manager of Toronto Maple Leafs and this season's team might be the one that ends a franchise record playoff drought. The Leafs haven't been in the post season field since the 2003-04 season, the last one before the lockout. The greater goal is of course to win the Stanley Cup, something that hasn't happened in Toronto since 1967.
Like the Sabres, Toronto came out of the gate firing, opening the season with 5 wins in their first 7 games. The record was an impressive 9-3-1 in early November but like the Sabres, Toronto has cooled off a bit. Taking into account Tuesday's 2-1 win over Carolina, the Leafs are just 7-8-2 in their last 17 games.
I bet you've heard this one before. Injuries have been part of the problem. Former Sabres Tim Connolly and Clarke MacArthur as well as Mathew Lombardi, Mike Komisarek, Mike Brown, and Colby Armstrong have all missed games. Brown, Komisarek and Lombardi are still out of the lineup. Number one goalie James Reimer, a big part of that fast start in the first month, missed 18 games but recently returned. The Leafs also lost their backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson and for a handful of games were stuck playing their third string netminder.
One of the other reasons for the team's success is the play of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, both ranked among the NHL's top 5 in scoring. Kessel, who led all scorers in October, has 18 goals and 36 points. Lupul, who led all scorers during November, has 13 goals and 34 points. As far as the former Sabres, Connolly scored both goals in the win over the Hurricanes and now stands at 6 goals, 15 points in 18 games. MacArthur has 9 goals, 13 points in 22 games.
The Leafs success comes despite the fact they are tied for the NHL's 2nd youngest roster, tied with the Sabres by the way. Unlike Buffalo which has been built mainly through the draft, only 5 players on the Leafs roster are homegrown products. 11 players were brought in via trades and 10 were signed as free agents. One other note about Toronto and it concerns their special teams which are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Their power play has been a key weapon and is currently ranked 2nd in the league but the penalty killing has been a major sore spot as evidenced by its ranking of 2nd to last.