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Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, takes a break as goalie as James Reimer looks on while they play the St. Louis Blues during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto on Tuesday March 25, 2014The Globe and Mail

The good news is this year's edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs will be different.

No more enforcers, according to every indication from behind the curtain. No more top-six, bottom-six separation, with skill reserved only for the top half of the forwards for some reason.

These are only baby steps in the right direction. But steps nonetheless.

Looking at the roughly 60 bodies the Leafs have invited to training camp – which gets under way with physicals on Thursday morning – the biggest change is that president Brendan Shanahan and company have added depth.

Some of the newcomers simply replace players they lost over the summer. But the most important change will be that, instead of Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren and Jay McClement taking an irregular shift, a player who knows how to put the little black disc into the back of the net will be on the ice.

It sounds odd to put focus on a team's fourth line entering camp, but the reality in the NHL these days is that fourth lines matter. Not only do they play more than ever – most successful teams find 10 to 12 minutes per game for their depth players – but injuries quickly turn them into third lines.

So if your fourth line can't play, that's a real problem.

Whether it's Mike Santorelli or David Booth or Dan Winnik filling that role for the Leafs doesn't particularly matter, although those will be among the many questions answered over the next two and a half weeks of camp. What matters is the organization is finally putting more of a premium on skill throughout the lineup, which will help over the course of 82 games.

That's the good news. And it's being sold hard from the higher-ups as a solution to what ailed last year's Leafs, who crashed spectacularly out of the playoff race by losing 12 of their final 14 games.

But Toronto had significant problems beyond its depth players, and those problems aren't going to be solved as easily as plucking free agents out of the midsummer bargain bin.

How does a veteran coach like Randy Carlyle, for example, reinvent himself and implement a different system than the one that has been largely ineffective for several years?

Where will he find players to play in the toughest minutes in games, given it was there that Toronto was so often outshot and outplayed, even with its highest-paid players on the ice?

How will the Leafs compensate if Jonathan Bernier takes a small step back from playing team saviour? Or if they're not healthy on the blueline, as they have been for the majority of the past few seasons?

Those answers aren't nearly as easy to come by, despite having a new analytics team on hand to provide some fresh ideas.

Even with all of the turnover – with as many as eight or nine regulars gone – this remains a roster built with most of its talent in goal and on the wing and not nearly enough at centre or defence.

And many of the positives gained in the off-season are intangibles – advancements in team-building philosophy and management aptitude – that could take years to pay off.

Right now, the Leafs may be a little deeper, but they're not meaningfully better – barring some pleasant surprises from young players or the newcomers.

With the way good NHL teams hoard talent, it's a long road up from 23rd-place for most teams, and that looks to be the case here. Even if things appear to finally be pointed in a better direction.

Leafs projected roster, entering training camp


van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Kessel




Extra: Frattin, Ashton, Bodie





Extra: Tallinder-Granberg


Bernier, Reimer