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October 26, 2016 | 11:51pm ET
Don't forget the 'D'
There's excitement in the Toronto air, but the Maple Leafs won't succeed until their defensive game is in check.

TORONTO, ON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs came into this new season with a different vibe, similar to the one they ended the 2015-16 campaign with, only this time around, their strut has a little extra bounce to it.

Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have added significant fire power up front to an already young lineup that boasts William Nylander and Zach Hyman, not to forget James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri.

They're dangerous, explosive and deep. But they're young and they're going to have plenty of growing pains.

"Yeah, for sure," Nylander said earlier this week. "It's what you've got to go through. You've got to lose some to start winning some. We're working on it every day."

As potent as they can be, their defensive game is significantly lacking. Blame goalie Frederik Andersen all you want for Tuesday's performance, where he let in seven goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but when the team in front of him continuously fails to clear the zone and leaves opposing players wide open in front of his net, there's only so much any goaltender can do.

Andersen aside -- he's a good goalie and he'll start gaining his confidence again -- until the Maple Leafs fix their defensive game, it's going to be an up-and-down season in Toronto.

And this goes beyond the actual defensive corps. As much as GM Lou Lamoriello and the management staff want to improve the talent on the blueline, the young team up front needs to be held accountable, too.

The mood inside the Air Canada Centre is already significantly different than it was last season. The optimism is alive again in Toronto, but the fans seem to understand that this campaign is still part of the rebuilding process -- and that'll help the players on the ice get through the grind some of their current and former colleagues had to deal with.


It's looks like swapping mandatory days off and putting some of the media into an unnecessary frenzy has paid off for the Edmonton Oilers.

I was in Edmonton when shit hit the fan early against the Buffalo Sabres and head coach Todd McLellan belted out some fantastic quotes that will probably be used in highlight packages for the remainder of the season. The Oilers looked bad. They were sloppy, Cam Talbot's head wasn't in it, and it seemed as if the team gave up.

Boy, how things have changed.

Granted, it's been a small sample size, but the Oilers are clicking on all cylinders and Talbot, with his new, healthy twins watching on, has been superb.

Similar to the Maple Leafs, the Oilers' forwards are getting the job done. They've proven to present a balanced offensive attack, and they're pitching in defensively... which will be counted upon later on in the season.

The Oilers will continue to look for ways to strengthen their defense -- it's still a priority for GM Peter Chiarelli -- but they'll gladly ride the waves their goaltender and offensive studs are creating.


The whispers are starting to pick up. Yes, it's not even one month into the season, but teams are starting to explore potential ways of upgrading their rosters.

Defense, as in every season, is an area of concern a number of teams want to address. Some more than others.

The Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins are among the teams quietly examining possible options for later on in the season. They'd all like to add a top-four blueliner to the roster (shocker, who doesn't?), but the salary cap is still a tricky thing to maneuver. The Kings might be in the best position if Marian Gaborik and Jonathan Quick are placed on LTIR, but that's a bridge they can cross later in the season.

There are plenty of eyes on the Anaheim Ducks and what they will end up doing once they sign Hampus Lindholm -- and Cam Fowler's name continues to pop up as the odd man out, but the Ducks aren't moving him for draft picks and prospects; they'd like to pick up a top-six left wing.

And in Winnipeg, the Trouba holdout continues. Teams are trying to present packages to Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, but nothing has intrigued him enough to extend talks. Not yet, anyway.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.



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