I am so sick of missing the playoffs. Burke thought that this year's edition of the Leafs would compete for a playoff spot. Didn't exactly work out that way as the team started very slowly without Phil Kessel in the lineup (and with Vesa Toskala in net) and could never recover.
So with the playoffs being the most realistic goal we could hope for next season the question becomes, 'what's it going to take to get there?'. I don't think that the additions of Colby Armstrong or Kris Versteeg are going to be what puts us over the top (as in over the top of the 7 teams we'd have to overtake to get into the 8th spot).
With that in mind, improvement will have to come from within. Here are the top five Leafs that have to have a better season next year if we're going to get into the playoffs.
Dion Phaneuf - After seasons of 50, 60 and 47 points, Phaneuf tallied a mere 32 last season. 60 is probably out of the question with this Leafs' offense but the team will need a big uptick from last year's 32 to get in. Equally important will be limiting his turnovers. The Leafs will need their captain to regain his Norris nominee form.
Mikhail Grabovski - Big things were expected from the Pineapple Slayer this year after he signed his extension but his season was de-railed by a fractured wrist. He showed some promise in his return but often looked to be a step behind. An improved Grabbo would mean either reduced responsibility for Kadri or if Grabbo is moved to the wing, that Colby Armstrong wont be pressed into the top 6.
Jonas Gustavsson - He wasn't supposed to be a full time number one last year but Toskala's ineptitude forced him into service early. He had some obvious bumps in the road and finished the year with a .902 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA. Giguere should reduce his workload and the year under Allaire should have spurred his development. Better numbers from the Monster in his probable 30ish starts this season would go a long way towards securing a playoff spot.
Tyler Bozak - He didn't have a bad year last year. 27 points in 37 games, with many of them coming late in the season, is nothing to be ashamed of. That said, Bozak is likely going to be leading our top unit and as such will be centering Phil Kessel. It probably isn't likely, but we're going to need 65-75 points from Bozak to get a sniff of the second season.
Mike Komisarek - No doubt about it. Perhaps the poster boy for what went wrong with the Leafs last year, Komisarek -9 in 34 games, took some stupid and costly penalties, and was hurt for a significant part of the season. While many believe that Komisarek's lingering injury was the cause of his bad play my feeling is that it has to be. If what we saw from him last year was the real Mike Komisarek then this team is doomed. I like his presence on the ice and like that smaller forwards will struggle to develop any kind of prolonged offensive zone pressure with him on the ice but his defense when the opponent is counter-attacking was highly suspect last year. If one player needs a bounce back year, it's him.
Those are my picks. Anyone else have some thoughts on who could stand to improve next season?