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Monday February 1, 2010 9:33 pm

Blockbuster breakdown: Toronto Maple Leafs

Dion PhaneufIt seems blockbuster trades aren’t entirely a thing of the past in the NHL. But it took a blockbuster GM like Toronto’s Brian Burke to do it. With two colossal trades on Sunday, Burke added defensemen Dion Phaneuf, winger Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie from Calgary, giving up forwards Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and defenseman Ian White. The second deal sent forward Jason Blake and goalie Vesa Toskala to the Ducks in return for goaltender J.S. Giguere.

Phaneuf is probably the biggest piece Toronto has added to their lineup. The 24-year-old blue-liner from Edmonton is known for his ability to blast pucks through traffic. He scored 20 goals in his rookie season. He’s also good at finishing his checks, something that Toronto has been lacking, despite Burke’s offseason additions. If Phaneuf is not already seen as an elite NHL defenseman, he’s definitely one step away from it. Giguere helps answer a major question in net, with both Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson playing inconsistently this season, the latter likely due to two heart surgeries in the last six months. Giguere is being brought in to not only be a number one, but also to mentor the less-experienced Gustavsson as he learns the NHL, which is a role not new to Giguere.

The Maple Leafs lost some of their decent offensive talent in the trades, but offense hasn’t been their main concern. It has been an issue, but not their biggest. They are among the worst in the league at penalty killing and Toskala’s goals against average was at an awful 3.66 with a .874 save percentage, both good for 47th overall in the league. Jason Blake has been a tough fit in the city as well, known primarily for dozens of shots with little success overall. But his speed will be missed by the Blue and White.

Burke has continually stressed that he’s not ever going to stand pat with the roster he has. When pieces aren’t working, he’ll do anything and everything he can to repair or replace them. With the upgrades in Phaneuf and Giguere, as well as the additions of more young players, the Leafs have certainly made a move that looks good on paper. Whether that translates to the standings in the seasons to come will be an interesting thing to watch.



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