In order to understand what the Toronto Maple Leafs might do at the trade deadline, I think it’s important to figure out what kind of team they are.
Are the Toronto Maple Leafs a Cup Contender, or are they a just hoping to make the Playoffs?
The answer here lies in looking deeper than the NHL Standings.
The Leafs are definitely in a fight to make the playoffs, and while it remains extremely likely that they make it, nothing is impossible.
But results are often random, and the worst way to manage a team is to put too much stock in them.
Leafs Are Legitimate Contenders
For instance, teams whose position in the standing can be linked to unsustainable goaltending are not legitimate contenders.
No team can maintain a .930 save percentage for long. The Bruins know this, so they improved their team significantly yesterday.
But the next best goaltending teams in the league – the Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Islanders, Stars, and Coyotes are in trouble.
While it’s possible the goaltending can hold out long enough for them to win a Cup, it just isn’t likely. Of the top six teams by 5v5 save percentage, only Colorado and Boston figure to be any good when the magic of their goalies wears off.
The real threat to win comes from teams who are playing OK despite bad goaltending, since there’s a real shot their goalies could turn it around.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and the Vegas Golden Nights are teams who should terrify the rest of the NHL.
That is because despite goaltending ranked 22, 23,21 and 25th, these teams are keeping their heads above water with excellent team stats.
But three of these four teams have star goalies, who figure to be better than a mid-twenties ranking.
The history of the NHL says that good goalies post better than a .910 save percentage, and that no one can hold onto a .930 save percentage.
Teams that identify themselves properly are the real winners at the trade deadline.
While anyone can get lucky and win the Stanley Cup, here is a list of real contenders: Bruins, Lightning, Leafs, Capitals, Penguins, Hurricanes, Knights, Blues.
Everyone else is kidding themselves.
With this in mind, these Leafs should ignore their record and go for it. Their team stats clearly indicate they are one of the NHL’s three best teams, and if they get healthy and Andersen finds his game they will dominate.
If I was in charge of the team, I’d be looking for an elite player, at any position. One large upgrade will make this team impossible to play against.
But even if the Leafs stand pat, as the team in the NHL with the most elite players, they will eventually prove to be the best team.