This entry in our "opposing viewpoints" series comes from Leafs fan Craig (@snatchera), a good guy in spite of his obviously flawed method of choosing a favorite hockey team.
Here are some of his thoughts on the Buds.
James Reimer is on fire. What do you see being different in his game, as opposed to in his more recent struggles?
It's hard to say that he's doing anything differently, other than the much publicized "playing with confidence". Previous struggles were typically post-Gionta and last year under Carlyle which hurt everyone's numbers. Bernier, last year's de facto starter, still only posted a .912 to Reimer's .907; likely they were more victims of playing behind a bad team than any poor play of their own. Reimer has always been a good first-save goalie, and having a defense in front of him that isn't a complete garbage fire has helped.
With the Kessel trade, the Leafs had a lot of offense to make up. How do you think they've done so far? Has anyone really stood out as stepping up their game?
When he was dealt, I tweeted "Trading Phil is like breaking up with your crazy ex: the sex was great but you knew it had to end sooner or later" (this was my most popular tweet ever). Missing his offensive prowess has left obvious holes, but this year's team composition is much more balanced under Babcock. Kadri has taken his rightful spot as 1C, the Matthias-Bozak-Parenteau line has been consistent, and Lupul has been healthy on the third line and played well with Holland. There is zero star power (JvR?) but they're bringing a more balanced attack. Matt Hunwick has been surprisingly consistent with bigger minutes, and Morgan Rielly keeps improving and showing why he's worth a 5th overall pick.
What do you see as this team's biggest strengths? Biggest weaknesses?
It's no real secret that adding Mike Babcock has altered the team completely; I'm just thankful that it's been in a positive way so far. Although they've been outshot lately they aren't running around cluelessly in their own zone as they did under Randy. For years now Leafs fans have been saying they'd rather have a boring team that wins games over an exciting team that can't hold a lead, and it looks like we may have finally gotten our wish. What this season ends up being, who knows, but having a well-coached system in place going forward gives us at least a little optimism.
The key weaknesses are clearly depth and scoring. No star power and a relatively young defense corps means there are likely to be more downs than ups over the course of the year. The good news is that this is going to be a transitional learning year, so any shortfalls that occur will be fixed either through growth or personnel changes.