John-Michael Liles: B+. One of Toronto’s pleasant surprises so far. Liles is fourth on the team in shots on goal – a welcome change from the man he replaced, Tomas Kaberle – and has made the Leafs blueline more of an offensive threat than it was a year ago. Wilson has remarked how surprised he’s been with his defensive game, and Liles has even taken on a leadership role by wearing Mike Komisarek’s ‘A’ while he’s out of the lineup. Not a very big guy, but he works his tail off in his own end. His biggest weakness is a key defensive mistake once in a while, as witnessed on the winning goal in their loss Sunday in Carolina.
Jake Gardiner: B. Not even expected to make the NHL in his first full season as a pro, Gardiner has instead been picking up more and more minutes as some of the Leafs veteran blueliners have struggled. Since his first two games, Gardiner is second in the league in minutes played by a rookie and is getting time on the penalty kill, where he’s used his skating to help Toronto take a more aggressive approach. He has not produced much offence, even on the power play, and Wilson has sheltered him from top opposition. Even so, Gardiner’s been a welcome addition with Keith Aulie playing his way into the minors in training camp.
Mike Komisarek: C-. This has been Komisarek’s best showing so far in Toronto, although given how much he’s struggled in the past, that’s not high praise. The Leafs are still getting out shot badly when he’s on the ice (25-18) and Wilson has been reluctant to use him in more than third-pairing minutes. He was progressing in the right direction, however, before he got hurt.
Luke Schenn: F. Fresh off receiving a five-year deal for $3.5-million a season, Schenn’s season has been a mess. For the first 15 or so games, he looked tentative, with and without the puck, and nothing like the player who logged 22 minutes a game a year ago. He’s down to under 15 so far this season, has sat one game as a healthy scratch, and while he’s been better of late, still has a ways to go.
Cody Franson: F. Franson was thrown for a loop almost from the get-go in training camp, as he was trying to learn to play the left side for the first time and in a radically more offence-first system than he was used to in Nashville. Then, when Wilson predictably scratched him to start the year, it was a blow to his confidence, and that was clearly evident in his first few games. Franson has talent and is a hard worker so there’s no reason to believe he can’t turn things around. With Komisarek out two months with a broken arm, he’s going to get every opportunity to chip in offensively like he did with his first goal against the Capitals on Saturday.
Jonas Gustavsson: D. Prior to his best game of the season – and best game in more than a calendar year – in a 7-1 win over Washington, Gustavsson would have received an F. The Monster has struggled mightily at times in attempting to fill in for James Reimer, allowing untimely bad goals and costing his team wins. His 3.46 goals-against average and .892 save percentage remain two of the worst marks in the league even if he has found a way to win more games than any other Toronto netminder. The next 20 games of the season are big for him.
Ben Scrivens: C+. For a rookie third-string goaltender playing in his second pro season, Scrivens has been just okay. His two wins were both terrific outings on the road, but he’s also been prone to allowing bad goals. Only eight games into his NHL career, however, Scrivens has shown signs of being able to play full-time at this level and his .904 save percentage is better than many Leafs goaltenders have posted in recent years.
James Reimer: B. Reimer was off to a fine start to the season, with a 4-0-1 record, before leaving his sixth game with concussion-like symptoms. While he wasn’t winning games singlehandedly, Reimer was a calming influence on the team and had an above league average .912 save percentage when he went down. The Leafs clearly miss him.