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By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - The Toronto Maple Leafs are used to falling short in the Stanley Cup chase, as they haven't raised the coveted chalice since 1967. However, missing the postseason altogether is simply unacceptable in the hockey Mecca.

That's exactly what happened in 2005-06, and the result was a roster re- tooling and the firing of head coach Pat Quinn in favor of new bench boss Paul Maurice.

Shutting down the opposition was the theme this summer for general manager John Ferguson. He signed defensemen Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina, as well as former Selke Trophy winner Michael Peca. And he traded for goaltender Andrew Raycroft.

Of course, Peca's contributions are going to largely be as a defensive forward, and there weren't any big-time offensive additions to complement captain Mats Sundin. Overall, the offensive depth chart appears to be very top-heavy at first glance.

In terms of the exit door, gone are the likes of Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, Tie Domi, Aki Berg and Ed Belfour.

It looks like Ferguson is re-building his club from the back end out. His work had better not be done then.

FORWARDS - Sundin remains among the NHL's premier all-around centerman. He puts the puck in the net, sets up others and plays a physical brand of hockey. Last season the superstar Swede posted 31 goals and 47 assists in 70 games. However, he is getting up there in years at 35, and the lack of help acquired this offseason could begin to be an issue. Expect his numbers to decline before they improve.

Because of the a lack of weapons, a guy like Darcy Tucker, whose grit and style lend more to a checking line, will be counted on to produce. Tucker netted 28 goals -- second on the team -- a season ago, and his 61 points were a career high. Can he produce at such a level again?

With many veterans now gone, the onus will be on younger players like Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky to pick up the slack. Ponikarovsky has played the last two seasons as a regular, and blossomed in 2005-06. The 6-4, 220- pounder netted 21 goals last season.

Other youngsters to keep an eye on are Kyle Wellwood and Matt Stajan, who were both among the 12 Leafs to reach double-digit goals in 05-06. And center Alexander Steen, a first-round pick in 2002, got his first taste of NHL action a season ago and was impressive with 18 goals and 27 assists. Steen is diminutive, but plays bigger than he is and is defensively sound.

One veteran to keep tabs on is long-time NHL sniper Jeff O'Neil, who managed only 19 goals in 74 games. O'Neill, a former 30-40 goal guy has had back-to- back off seasons, so you have to wonder if his days of picking the corners are over.

DEFENSE - Bryan McCabe was the frontrunner for the Norris Trophy early last season, but didn't quite keep up his torrid offensive pace. That said, he finished with 19 goals and 49 assists to finish second on the club in points. He and Tomas Kaberle will likely be the top group on the depth chart, providing speed in the back end and a spark going up the ice.

The additions of Gill (250 pounds) and Kubina (230 pounds) give the club some much-needed beef on the depth chart. While Gill is essentially a stay-at-home wrecking ball, Kubina should contribute at the offensive end as well.

Former first-rounder Carlo Colaiacovo and Staffan Kronwall will likely be the fifth and sixth blueliners, and each player got a small taste of NHL action last season. However, neither has played a full campaign as an NHL regular as of yet.

GOALTENDING - Bringing in Raycroft was a bit of a gamble for the club, as he suffered through a brutal season in Beantown last year. He finished 8-19-2 with a 3.71 goals-against average in 30 appearances.

What the Leafs have in mind is the kind of year Raycroft had in 2003-04 when he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. Pretty much, though, that is really the only solid basis we have to go on as to what his potential "might" be. Prior to that he spent most of his days in the AHL, with occasional call-ups.

Of course, Raycroft is only 26, and this is about the time netminders normally hit their primes. The Leafs have to hope he hasn't already peaked, especially since they gave up a big-time goaltending prospect in the deal.

Either Jean-Sebastien Aubin or Mikael Tellqvist will serve as Raycroft's backup.

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It looks like another season of "just making the playoffs" in Toronto. I'll have to admit though, the team is going in a much better directing than it was the last few years. There are so many good young players on the team now, both on defence and offence.
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