NHL 31 Teams in 31 Days: Toronto Maple Leafs

We’re less than 31 days away from the beginning of the 2017/18 season. Today we continue to dive into the 31 NHL teams in alphabetical order, take a look at their previous standings and upcoming season predictions, as well as their key additions and subtractions. Yesterday was the turn of the Tampa Bay Lightning, today we look at the the last original six team left in this series; the Toronto Maple Leafs.  

2016/17 record: 40/27/15

Key additions: Patrick Marleau, Ron Hainsey

Key losses: Brian Boyle, Matt Hunwick

2017/18 prediction: Playoffs – second round at a push.

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, was the last season of the Original Six era NHL. There has been little glimmers of hope here and there, but the best the team could do was make the conference finals a few times. Over the last decade, the Maple Leafs have become a pitiful, jersey-tossing, sad parody of their own long forgotten glory days. Then the Shanaplan happened. Auston Matthews happened.

While the Shanaplan-debate rages on, the Brendan Shanahan template for team-rebuilding may one day serve as the model for all struggling teams. Of course the drafting of Matthews was partly down to the draft lottery; building a successful offence around the young corps of Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner took skill and coach Mike Babcock deserves a lot of credit The Leafs have bolstered their young offence with the addition of free agent Patrick Marleau. The 38 year old winger was signed to a three-year contract, and while he’ll definitely score some points; Marleau has a great opportunity to develop those around him.

Naturally a lot of attention on the leafs will be focused on Auston Matthews, and the 20-year-old is showing no sign yet of a sophomore slump. While pre-season games are no indication of regular season success, you can’t ignore the hat trick Matthews dropped on a poor Al Montoya a few days ago against the Montreal Canadiens. It has just additions to the team, after just 21 games with the Leafs, centre Brian Boyle became a free agent and was signed by the New Jersey Devils.

The Leafs upgraded their blueline during the off season too. Matt Hunwick joined the Pittsburgh Penguins via free-agency. On the same day, Ron Hainsey, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins last season (and nothing with the Carolina Hurricanes) went the other way. The journeyman blueliner signed a two-year deal worth $6 million.

Hainsey’s experience may prove invaluable to the Leafs, and will definitely give options and depth to a defensive corps that has promise but has proven to be a little permeable at times.

In goal Frederik Andersen was dependable last season and this season looks no different. He hasn’t managed to repeat his .923 save percentage from 2013/14 but he’s coming close. Andersen ended last season on .918 which is respectable but not dazzling. The 27 year old is settling in well to the Leafs system and has firmly cemented his place as the team’s starting goalie.

Is the Shanaplan working? It seems so, although the fear of a sophomore slump is real as opposition learns how to counter the Leafs’ dangerous offence. That said; the Leafs are a strong team and the Atlantic division offers a real opportunity for a strong team to progress to the playoffs. How far Toronto can go is a different question; the right parts are in the right places but it’ll take another season or two before they should be considered actual cup contenders.

What are your thoughts on the Leafs’ chances this season? Comment below or join in the conversation on twitter.

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