While division rivals Tampa Bay had last season sewn-up pretty much by November, there was an interesting battle to see which other Canadian teams (that weren’t Ottawa) would make the playoffs. In the end Toronto finished just four points ahead of Montreal, but those four points were enough to secure the Leafs the 3rd playoff spot in the Atlantic, while the Habs finished just outside of the wildcard places.
First Key Game: Montreal Canadiens – October 6th
Odds to win the division
14:5 (2nd overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
Nah, I wouldn’t. The Leafs have made changes on the ice, but nothing that’s going to make the team more dangerous than it already was. There are also seven teams in the Atlantic that are handicapped by the measure of not being Tampa Bay. Toronto may give Boston a run for second place, but I don’t feel that they’re strong enough to edge the Lightning over 82 games.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
Will the Leafs get bounced by the Bruins in the playoffs? Since 2004, Toronto has made the playoffs four times, and in three of those, the team fell to division rivals Boston. Actually that’s only part of the story. The Leafs are a playoff team, no doubt, but are they Cup contenders?
A lot of moves have been made that could bolster Toronto in the playoffs, especially if you look at which players were traded away.
Player to watch
Shouldn’t really be a surprise, it’s Mr Mitchell Marner. THE story of the offseason. Was he going to sign or hold out? Long deal or bridge? How much money? The NHL’s 11th highest point scorer last season certain dominated a lot of column inches, but eventually settled for a six year contract worth $10.8 million a season.
A solid 4th line. Toronto are offensively strong, with a lot of talent to throw at opposition goalies. But the lines are top-heavy. Some teams would cry out to have two or three solid lines, but the Leafs need to do better if they want to be taken seriously at the business end of the season. There’s no cap space left to bring in a strong forward, but if Mike Babcock is smart (and he is), he can shuffle around the existing talent to make Toronto strong no matter which line is on the ice.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs were an animal, what would they be?
The tortoise, specifically the one that raced the hare. Slow and steady wins the race, and if the Leafs manage the season carefully, they’ll be able not only to progress to the playoffs, but also through the playoffs. The talent is there already.