2017/2018 Record: 49-26-7 105 pts (3rd in Atlantic Division)
2017/2018 Playoffs: 3-4 (Lost in the Eastern Conference 1st Round)
Key Additions: John Tavares, Adam Cracknell, Josh Jooris, Tyler Ennis, Jordan Subban, Igor Ozhiganiov, & Kyle Dubas
Key Subtractions: Roman Polak, Matt Martin, Tyler Bozak, James Van Reimdyk, Leo Komarov, Tomas Plekanec, Mark Hunter and Lou Lamoriello.
Top 3 Questions facing the Maple Leafs this upcoming season:
William Nylander, What’s the deal?
Last Season William Nylander and Auston Matthews put together one of the most dynamic duos in the league. Nylander put up 62 points in 82 games and showed he has the vision to be one of the leagues premier play-makers. But now Nylander and the Leafs seemed to have come to a impasse concerning a contract for the youngster. There has been 3 trains of thought concerning this negotiation. First Nylander signs a long term contract in the vicinity of 6-7.5 mill a season for about 7 or 8 years. The second option is a bridge contract 3 years at approximately 4 million a season. But the third option is one that is being really thrown around a lot lately. The thought is that Babcock really likes Tyler Ennis (He plays in the tough corners, is small but isn’t afraid and has had some really good chemistry with Matthews) and isn’t afraid to say goodbye if Nylander wants to play hardball with his contract. I expect Nylander to be in uniform by the seasons beginning, but it still begs the question will he be ready?
The Leafs Defence (Or lack thereof), Can it be better?
Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev and Travis Dermott. They Just weren’t good enough last year. From Gardiner’s lackadaisical turnovers to Zaitsev’s atrocious season, the big question on everyone’s mind is Can the Leafs win with this Defence? I’m gonna say yes, and there’s 2 reasons to see hope in the this defence core. One look at Pittsburgh’s defence during their cup runs. Letang (injured), Dumoulin, Maata, Hainsey, Oleksiuk and Schultz just to name a few. It’s not a defence that was to die for but the team made it work with strong positioning, strong puck possession numbers, good goal-tending and good coaching. Second reason is 3rd pairing plays a big part in the top 4 defencemen getting a rest. This season there will be no Polak and in my opinion no Carrick or atleast he’ll be in a very tough spot, I think you’ll see Dermott, Ozhiganiov and Rosen fighting for those positions and I think any combo of those 3 will allow Babcock to feel safe in resting his top 4 every once and a while. So I think you’ll see a definite improvement in the defence this season.
The John Tavares Factor: What does this mean?
Everyone keeps asking John Tavares does this mean we have the cup gift wrapped. Actually no it doesn’t and I think Tavares solidifies the Leafs scoring and center position but I also think he leaves a lot of questions open. I think this season is more about can the Leafs youth be effective in limited minutes. For example the 4th line Kapanen – Lindholm – Johnsson can they all be effective with 9 minutes in a games. all possess blistering speed and ability to be game changers but can they bring it in a 4th line role? Because if the Leafs plan to load up the powerplay with Matthews, Kadri, Marner, Rielly and JT. That takes away all 3 centers from their top 3 lines. Which means they will have to go with the 4th line after a powerplay just to get some rest. It’s safe to assume that Matthews, Tavares and Marner will score they’ve always done their jobs. But the big question will heavily fall on those 3rd and 4th lines. If they bring it this team instantly becomes 100 times more dangerous they were last season.