While other sites are previewing "30 teams in 30 days," we decided to take advantage of the extra time before the season to bring you all 30 previews over the next three weeks. We're counting down in reverse order of finish from last season in each conference every weekday from now until October 3. Look for an Eastern Conference preview every morning and a Western Conference preview every afternoon. Click here to read them all.
Who's In: Jeff Finger, D (UFA, Col); Mikhail Grabovski, F (trade, Mon); Niklas Hagman, F (UFA, Dal); Ryan Hollweg, F (trade, NYR); Curtis Joseph, G (UFA, Cal); Jamal Mayers, F (trade, StL); Nikolai Kulemin, RW ('06 draft), Luke Schenn, D ('08 draft); Mike Van Ryn, D (trade, Fla)
Who's Out: Scott Clemmensen, G (UFA, NJ); John Pohl, F (UFA); Andrew Raycroft, G (UFA, Col); Bryan McCabe, D (trade, Fla); Mats Sundin, C (UFA, ???); Darcy Tucker, F (UFA, Col); Kyle Wellwood, F (waivers, Van); Andy Wozniewski, D (UFA, StL)
What's Changed: Oh, you know, same old Buds really: New GM, new head coach, team captain off on a free agency soul search, several veterans bought out or traded for scrap, Jeff Finger is worth $3.5-million a season and the demand for tickets has dried up in Toronto.
Just kidding on the last one.
Interim GM Cliff Fletcher went scorched earth on his roster, dumping anything resembling an overpaid veteran and handing the reins to, well, whoever was left. The team's No. 1 centre will be either Nik Antropov or Alex Steen, and Jason Blake and Tomas Kaberle are the only players on the entire roster to have ever totalled 60 points in a season.
Minus Mats Sundin, the offence is in trouble, while the crew on the blueline and in goal is relatively the same. The biggest difference in the goals against department, however, will come from the coaches, as new bench boss Ron Wilson is well-known for his stingy systems.
The youth movement will also see rookies Nikolai Kulemin and Luke Schenn take a run at a roster spot, with Kulemin - a potential Calder candidate - all but guaranteed to play on the big club and Schenn unlikely to make that jump just yet.
Who's On The Hook: No one, really. Fletcher has undersold this group to the point that a dead last finish probably wouldn't result in anyone being cast out and stoned - which is remarkable in this market.
Not only is a playoff spot not expected, it's actually be written out of the budget entirely by the bigwigs at MLSE. The only way there'll be hell to pay from the fan base is if they blow another chance to truly tank and pickup a top draft pick (which is a distinct possibility under Wilson).
Where They'll Finish: If they can get a few goals to go in, Toronto's probably not nearly as bad as advertised. Making the playoffs is quite unlikely, but they've certainly got company in the "awful" department in the Eastern Conference.
On paper, with a solid netminder and a defence that has some capable veterans, the Leafs will probably fall into the 10-13 range in the Eastern Conference and pick in the top seven or eight spots in the 2009 entry draft.
Unless they, you know, Tank for Tavares.