TOP STORY When a team finishes last in its conference, there are always plenty of question marks going into the following season, but the top one for the Leafs is likely to be centred around just how coach Ron Wilson will coax more goals out of this group. Toronto was ahead of only four other teams in scoring a year ago with 210 goals, more than half of which were scored by players no longer on the roster (106). General manager Brian Burke is hoping for a goals-by-committee approach, with three newcomers in Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong and Clarke MacArthur each pencilled in for 15 or more goals. Defensively, the cast is essentially the same, although a better performance is expected with captain Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek expected to play far more than the 26 and 34 games they spent as Leafs last season. Where there will be the least amount of intrigue is in goal, as Jean-Sébastien Giguère and Jonas Gustavsson enter the season as a set tandem.
SAY HELLO TO RW Kris Versteeg, RW Colby Armstrong, C Nazem Kadri, LW Clarke MacArthur, D Brett Lebda, G Jussi Rynnas, RW Mike Brown, D Matt Lashoff
SAY GOODBYE TO LW Viktor Stalberg, C Rickard Wallin, C Wayne Primeau, C Jamie Lundmark, D Garnet Exelby
NUMBERS GAME The Leafs currently have one of the tightest cap situations in the league, as their projected 23-man roster would put them roughly $600,000 over - a figure that doesn't include nearly $6-million in potential bonuses for some of the youngsters. Shipping defenceman Jeff Finger's $3.5-million to the minors appears to be how Burke will create ample manoeuvring room.
TOP PICK IN 2010 Brad Ross, selected 43rd overall. Only a few months removed from his 18th birthday, Ross is a ways away from playing in the NHL. A gritty left winger who has drawn some comparisons to Sean Avery, he is undersized to play the gritty, two-way role he currently excels at in the WHL.
TOP STORY Roberto Luongo's captaincy. The goaltender arrives in Vancouver this week for an audience with general manager Mike Gillis. If Luongo doesn't voluntarily surrender the 'C,' he may force the organization to strip it from him. That would ignite a captain watch, unless a successor is immediately appointed, and shine a brighter spotlight on Luongo's temperament. This summer, the Canucks replaced his preferred position coach, chose a replacement without consultation, and declared intentions to decrease his workload, handing more starts to young buck Cory Schneider. All this for a player who used to call his own shots.
SAY HELLO TO: D Dan Hamhuis, D Keith Ballard, C Manny Malhotra, RW Raffi Torres, LW Jeff Tambellini, RW Victor Oreskovich, C Joel Perreault.
SAY GOODBYE TO: D Willie Mitchell, F Pavol Demitra, RW Steve Bernier, RW Michael Grabner, C Kyle Wellwood, C Ryan Johnson.
NUMBERS GAME: Defenceman Sami Salo (heel) and Alexandre Burrows (shoulder) are likely to begin the season on long-term injured reserve. Still, the Canucks are tight to the limit no matter which way you slice their final roster. It is likely that some veterans will have their contracts buried in the minors. Dumping salary via trades is also possible. Vancouver's summer spending spree may also spell bad news for top prospect Cody Hodgson, who counts as a $1.7-million U.S. cap hit (including bonuses).
TOP PICK IN 2010: Defenceman Patrick McNally is still years away from the NHL - if he ever arrives. After trading away their top three selections, the Canucks took McNally in the fourth round, 115th overall. He's known as a cerebral blueliner, and is off to Harvard University next fall. Until then, he remains in the Massachusetts high school ranks.
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