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Improvement in Toronto Maple Leafs’ Defense Key in Securing Playoff Berth

Ever since the National Hockey League lockout cancelled the entire 2004-2005 season, the Toronto Maple Leafshas failed to make it in the playoffs. The six-year stretch of no playoff appearance certainly has taken some toll to the owners of Toronto Maple Leafs tickets. But despite the team’s failure to secure a post season berth since the 2003-2004 season, the fans still provides their support when the Maple Leafs play in Air Canada Centre.

Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

This season, the Maple Leafs would likely end their streak of not being in the playoffs. They currently sit in the eighth place in the Easter Conference after registering 65 points through 60 games played. The overall season record of Toronto at present is 29-24-7. Maintaining their current spot especially with a lot teams looking to get into the playoffs would be a tall order for the team. The current makeup of their team particularly on the defensive end is still a work in progress. Hockey experts believe that the Maple Leafs needs a better goaltender especially with the struggles of current goalies Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer.

The General Manager of the Maple Leafs, Brian Burke, confirmed that the club is exploring their options on the goalie market. Burke is known in the entire hockey nation as a person who is not afraid to act and with the trade deadline approaching, February 27 3 p.m. ET, he clearly needs to act swiftly. Even though there is no assurance that they will get the player they like, the team would still like to see who’s available.

ESPN blogger Pierre LeBrun listed players who could help the team secure that last playoff berth.

One of the players on the list is Evgeni Nabokov of the New York Islanders. Even though Nabokov is in the wrong end of 30, he is still capable in providing a solid defensive presence for a team. He is also having a bounce-back season evidenced by his .925 save percentage, which puts him in the top 10 in that category in the entire league. When it comes to the financial responsibility of Toronto for him, Nabokov is slated to be an unrestricted free agency in July 1 which easily makes him an ideal rental player. There are also reports that Nabokov is willing to waive his no-trade clause just to be able to play in Toronto. Nabokov, who spent most of his career playing for San Jose Sharks, already played under the tutelage of current Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson (coached San Jose from 2002-2003 until 2007-2008).

Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Another player on the list in Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild who, like Nabokov will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Harding has a save percentage of .919, ranking him on the top 20 overall. Even though Minnesota has not decided on what to do during the trade deadline, the team would listen to the trade offers and then make a decision whether to shuffle their team.

Toronto is 28th in goals against and trading for a player that could help them in that category would certainly improve their chances of being in the playoffs this season.

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