The Toronto Maple Leafs have played 28 games.
The NHL season is 82 games long, and so the Toronto Maple Leafs are now approximately one-third through the 2017-18 season.
So far, we’ve seen pretty much what we expected. Ahead of the season I said the Leafs would win the Atlantic, be contenders for the Stanley Cup and that they’d be the most entertaining team in hockey. I think I was right on all scores.
I was wrong about some stuff: I didn’t think Bozak would play for the Leafs again. I was certain they’d have traded for a defenseman by now. I did not expect to ever see Roman Polak in a Leafs jersey, and I thought Ron Hainsey would be much, much worse.
Anyways, as the season is at it’s 1/3 Mark I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on what’s happened so far.
1/3 of the Way to the Playoffs
Biggest Surprise: Ron Hainsey. I still don’t think a team with eyes on the Cup should have him on their top pairing, or even the top four, but his play has blown me away considering I strongly hated the signing.
Biggest Disappointment: Mike Babcock. I think Mike Babcock walks on water, so don’t get me wrong. But he makes extremely weird lineup decisions and doesn’t explain them/ isn’t challenged enough by the media.
His insistence on playing Polak over the objectively better Carrick would be enough for me to call for the firing of just about any other coach. That’s how much I love Mike Babcock.
I also don’t get why Nylander hasn’t played centre, why Marner ever saw shifts on the fourth line, why Martin dresses every game and why Matthews doesn’t get an extra two minutes per game.
Biggest Confusion: How a team that is among the worst at preventing shots and allowing scoring chances keeps one of their best defensive forwards – Kasperi Kapanen – off the roster.
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Best Reason for Optimism: William Nylander has one 5v5 goal this year, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are still challenging for first place in the league.
Team MVP So Far: Morgan Rielly. He has the fifth highest total points (in both 5v5 and overall) for a defenseman in the NHL.
He has a 52% possession rating, which leads the Leafs. He also leads the Leafs in points (by a defenseman) and defensive zone starts. He’s playing tough minutes (though Babcock splits the tough minutes between the top four fairly evenly) and performing well.
I don’t really think he’s been the Leafs best player (Matthews and Andersen get that award) but I think Rielly’s ascension to being a legit top pairing NHL defenseman is the Leafs most important event so far this year. I believe like Matthews, Babcock needs to play him more.
In the next 66% of the season, I want to see Rielly and Matthews getting a ton more ice-time. I think it’s one thing that can really make this team better.
stats from naturalstattrick.com