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Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson, middle, is helped from the ice by Morgan Rielly, left, and Peter Holland. Injuries to Franson, David Clarkson and David Booth put a premium on depth.Peter Llewellyn

The predictions have been streaming in for a couple of weeks now, from all kinds of publications, and they have been, for the most part, predictable.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be a bubble team, they say, more likely to miss the playoffs by a handful of points than finish anywhere else.

It's the safe call. It's likely the right call, too, given what's transpired in training camp.

That is: nothing particularly out of the ordinary.

With a week left in training camp and until opening night against Montreal at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs are down to 29 bodies. Some are banged up – David Booth, Cody Franson and David Clarkson in particular – but at this point only Booth and his broken foot are expected to miss significant time.

Which means there are only five cuts to come.

While they'll come at the bottom of the roster, who those cuts are will be instructive given who's left in camp.

Will the two enforcers, Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, survive? Or has the organization finally moved on from the idea that having them punch another puncher helps them win games?

One troubling sign on that front is the recent trade rumours surrounding 23-year-old winger Carter Ashton, who may well be shipped out for a draft pick in much the same way Joe Colborne was a year ago.

Because Ashton requires waivers to go to the minors, the Leafs could dump a prospect that was a first-round pick five years ago and had essentially a point-per-game with the Toronto Marlies last year for negligible return.

They'd be doing so in order to keep an older fighter, who wouldn't be claimed and who could be buried on the farm for no cap cost, which makes very little sense.

These aren't the types of choices that make or break a roster, but they can hurt in the long run. Last year, Colborne was dealt to Calgary for a fourth-round pick right before the Leafs were decimated by injuries down the middle.

Orr couldn't fill that role. Neither could McLaren. And that lack of depth made for a very difficult stretch between early November and mid-January, when Toronto won only four games in regulation in a 33-game span.

The end-of-season collapse gets more attention, but that midseason mess hurt as much or more.

What's been encouraging in this camp is the Leafs have tried to keep around young players who've earned the right to stay. Wingers Josh Leivo and Brandon Kozun have both made unlikely pushes for a roster spot and could help fill the void left by Booth's injury.

Both are also better choices than the one-dimensional players who have so often filled bottom-six forward roles in past years, as they would be able to chip in offence and play an all-around game.

Then there's the long look the Leafs have given Stuart Percy on the back end and the debate over whether he's a better fit than his bigger and more experienced competition in Korbinian Holzer.

The 23-man roster limit being what it is, not everyone can stay. While the difference between keeping an Orr and keeping a Kozun isn't the type of swap that will suddenly vault the Leafs up the projected standings, it's still an indication of progress for an organization that has been rewarding the wrong type of players with roster spots ever since Brian Burke became GM six years ago.

This is a league that has been shifting and evolving considerably since then. Small, sleek players and teams have been thriving, and the Leafs have resisted those changes, right up until this final week of camp.

In the off-season, it appeared things had shifted. There was new management, a new ideology, new coaches and players brought in, as well as plenty of talk about having better depth and skill throughout the lineup.

But with opening night fast approaching, the Leafs have a chance to actually make good and ice a different group from Day 1, setting the tone for the season by going down a different path.

It would be a small sign the Leafs have evolved, just like the league they play in.