Colby Armstrong: Mr. Impact
The Leafs finished the 2010-2011 regular season with a 37-34-11 record, missing the playoffs yet again. The Leafs inability to consistently get results was paralleled by Armstrong's inability to consistently stay in the lineup. The Leafs free agent acquisition managed to play in only 50 games last season due to injury. More specificially, he suffered broken bones in his hand and foot, as well as missing action due to blurry vision. The Leafs' record with Armstrong was 25-19-6. The Leafs' record in those 32 missed games was 12-15-5. After viewing these numbers, it's safe to say that with Armstrong in the lineup the 2010-2011 Maple Leafs were a playoff team and without him they were not.
Having scored just eight goals last season, Armstrong's benefits may not be seen on the score sheet. However, his ability to get opponents off of their game, his ability to forecheck, and his penalty killing skills are valuable intangibles that every team needs, and one that this Leaf team was sorely missing without him.
The on-ice benefits of Armstrong are important, but so are his skills off of the ice. "Armdog" has quickly become the most popular player in the Leafs dressing room with both the media and his teammates. I like to think that Dion Phaneuf and Colby Armstrong are the pillars of leadership with this Leafs team, and that their leadership styles mesh well together. I see Phaneuf as the player who intimidates the opposition, as well as his own team. He sets the tone for the game, and hold his teammates responsible. Armstrong, on the other hand, I view as more of a jokester. He keeps the mood light in the room and on the bench. They are the parents on this team and Armstrong is the perfect good cop to Phaneuf's bad cop.
As for the argument that three million dollars is too much money for a third line winger, I think the Leafs record with Armstrong in the lineup speaks for itself. A player that has that significant an impact on your teams ability to win is invaluable. Judging what Washington paid Joel Ward this summer ($12 million over four seasons), or what Florida paid Sean Bergenheim ($11 million over four seasons), the Leafs are paying market value for "Armdog". Now, if they could only find a way to keep him healthy, Toronto may become a playoff town again before we know it.
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