The Toronto Maple Leafs Are On the Verge of Greatness

Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Auston Matthews first overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and haven’t looked back.

Auston Matthews was the Toronto Maple Leafs first first-overall pick since they selected Wendel Clark in 1985.

While Clark became a Leafs Legend, he was never one of the NHL’s best players.  Since the 1980s, the best Leafs player is Mats Sundin, and even he doesn’t enter the rarefied level of the Gretzky, Lemieux, Yzerman, Forsberg, Lindros, Jagr, Crosby and McDavid.

But Matthews does, and all the Leafs have done since they got him is win.

Sure, people look at three-straight first round exits and get bummed out, but in reality, the Leafs had no business even making the playoffs in year one, and both losses against Boston featured a rebuilding team taking on a veteran team classified as one of the NHL’s best.

And the Leafs almost won both.

Toronto Maple Leafs on the Verge of Greatness

This year they improved by adding Keefe, and because all of the Big Three came one year closer to their prime.  For various reasons the results weren’t there, but the Leafs are definitely one of the NHL’s best teams.

This year, since Keefe took over they finished eighth overall from the day they hired Sheldon Keefe.

That’s pretty good.

But if you consider the fact that they did it with Morgan Rielly missing half the games, and that they had a winning percentage over .700 when he did, then it becomes even more impressive.

Rielly and Muzzin were both out of the lineup for nine games.   No NHL team is going to win very many games when their top two defenseman are injured.

Add in the fact that with Keefe at the helm, the Toronto Maple Leafs received goaltending that ranked them in the mid-twenties league wide.

We know from history that teams that outperform their goalies performance almost always do well in the future.

In the long run, I think we can all agree that Freddie Anderson and Jack Campbell should combine to be a lot higher than 24th in 5v5 save percentage, when they are, the Leafs record will rise with them.

Finally, if we look at the team stats of Boston, Toronto and Tampa since Keefe took over, we see that the Leafs are right their with their biggest rivals.  In most cases, Tampa is first, Toronto second, and Boston third.

The only difference is the goaltending, which I can guarantee is least likely thing to stay the same.  Rask isn’t invincible.  Andersen isn’t the 24th best goalie.

Over time, the team stats will be far more predictive than the goalie stats.

Oh, and the Leafs are younger, faster, and playing a smarter, more progressive style.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are on their way up, on the verge of greatness.

Next. Leafs Get Easiest Matchup of Play-In Round. dark

They may or may not win the Stanley Cup this year, but they will definitely be winning one soon.