Defensive future a bright spot for Leafs?

Hey guys, I'm brand new here, this is my first entry. Comment on the topic, and tell me what you think of how it's written as well. Not too interesting of a topic I know, but like I said, it's my first... so I chose something I know a fair amount about.

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The Leafs obviously have a tremendous amount of work to be done up front. With the top-six consisting of Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Kris Versteeg, Mikhail Grabovski, and either Clarke McCarthur of Colby Armstrong. Although most of the players are second-line plugs - save for Kessel and potentially Kulemin - could the Maple Leafs defense be the one thing to look forward to for the future?

The back-end corps of the Maple Leafs consists of proven defenders Dion Phanuef, Thomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, and Francois Beauchemin. Also on the back-end, the Leafs have youngster Luke Schenn playing with the big club, and prospects Keith Aulie, Carl Gunnarsson, Korbinian Holzer, Matt Lashoff, Jesse Blacker, Juraj Mikus, and Danny Richmond in the system.

Many argue that the signings of Komisarek and Beauchemin were stupid for Burke to make, but the combined experience of the two is undeniable. Sure, they aren't the ones to bring the Leafs Lord Stanley's cup, but you can't build a team without experience like Mike and Francois bring. Beauchemin, at an annual cap hit of $3.8M, brings a lot of experience, currently leads the Leafs in blocked shots, and is averaging a good amount of ice-time. Komisarek, at $4.5M a year is a bit over paid yes, but again brings a lot of experience and is a great two-way, shut down defenceman. Should one, or both of these players be shipped out before the deadline, the Leafs still have lots of depth to fill these spots.

Another big topic of the Leafs back-end is elite defenceman, Thomas Kaberle. Kaberle's 5 year, $21.25 million dollar contract expires at the end of this season. There is a huge possibility he will be dealt before, or at the deadline of February 28th, should he waive his no-trade clause. Should he remain on the team, there will for sure be talks with him to re-sign with the Leafs on a shorter contract, taking less money presumably. What do you guys think?

On a brighter not, the Leafs have do have some great future on their back-end. Specifically, Luke Schenn. Schenn, a first round, 5th overall pick, has a very bright future ahead of him. He was named to the young-stars team his rookie year, and has won the WJC Gold. In his first two seasons with the Leafs, he played 149 games, while gaining 7 goals and 31 assists for 39 points, and gathering 121 penalty minutes. Sure, he isn't a huge offensive contributor, but he does some pretty great things with the puck, and deals some great checks.

In the farm system, the Leafs have some great young defencemen that are developing and could be ready to take the next step in a year or two. Gunnarsson, Aulie, Holzer, and Lashoff are all players that will more then likely develop into impact defencemen. While the others like Blacker, Mikus, and Richmond, will be more thank likely bottom four d-men, I don't think they should have a hard time finding their way onto an NHL roster either.

All this future in the AHL and minors, mixed with the experience of Beauchemin and Komisarek, leadership of elite defenceman Dion Phanuef, and as Burke would say "belligerence and truculence" shown by Luke Schenn, the Leafs could prove to have one of the strongest defense corps throughout the NHL in the coming years.

- Daniel W.

8 Comments

George Prax's picture

How is Komisarek a great two-way defenseman? He has no offensive upside and he was only good defensively when he was next to one of the best d-men in the league (when healthy) in Markov. I used to be a big fan of his, but he sucks. Sorry Tongue

Otherwise, great blog and welcome to the team!

Daniel_W's picture

Alright, maybe he's not a two-way aha. But he's good defensively in my opinion.

Patrick Storto's picture

Komisarek can be very good defensively, but he lets his emotions get the best of him and usually that either results in him making a bad decision or taking a bad penalty. When he is composed, he's really good on the defensive side of the puck.

As for the defense core itself, yes individually they're good, but as a unit not so much. A big part of the problem there is Burke has injected so many shutdown defenders into the lineup that they don't generate any offense and you can't blame those players entirely because it's stupid to expect players like Komisarek and Schenn to be a consistent source of offense from the back end.

When you figure that Kaberle is likely in his last year with the Leafs, the only real Leaf defender who is supposed to have any offensive upside is Dion Phaneuf.

I think Burke should dangle Keith Aulie out there. Yes he's a good young prospect, but with Schenn already on this team long-term, what real need is there for Aulie. The Leafs would be better suited developing Jesse Blacker and eventually bringing him up over Aulie since he has a lot more offensive upside.

George Prax's picture

no, sorry, Komisarek sucks.

George Prax's picture

Besides, not like shopping valuable assets is Burke's strong suit anyway Smile

Daniel_W's picture

Aha yeaa that's very true.