For the last couple of days, and continuing for the next few days, I have been and will be looking at each team in the NHL and identifying a couple of players in particular that fit into one of two categories based on the once popular kids game, Chutes and Ladders. The players in the “chutes” category will be players who exceeded expectations last season, and will have a difficult time avoiding a slide in the coming season. The “ladder” category will consist of players who are ready to climb a level in their play and step up a notch. Feel free to brows back to see previous teams, and look for more teams in the coming days.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Chutes: Tyler Bozak – After playing as the number 1 centre almost because there was no other option, somehow Bozak got into his mind that he was a true first line pivot and wanted to get paid that way. Now that he has his 5 year deal in his pocket, it is time to earn that deal. I’m still not convinced he can live up to it, and if he wasn’t such good friends with pending UFA in 2014 Phil Kessel, they might have let him walk. He is a good player, but I think his contract request were a bit much for what he offers, even though he eventually settled for a more reasonable number.
Ladders: Dave Bolland
While the acquisitions of David Clarkson and Jonathan Bernier might have overshadowed Bolland joining the Leafs, Bolland could have the most impact of all the new Leafs. Likely ticketed for a second line centre role, Bolland will get more of a chance to show his offensive skills, which were not as evident playing in a stacked Chicago system. He will become one of the big reasons the Leafs are a pain to play against this coming season.