Toronto Maple Leafs: Forecasting the NHL’s 5 Best Teams in 2021-22

Brendan Smith #42 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Brendan Smith #42 of the New York Rangers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stretches with his CCM Jetspeed stick over his head (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

No 3.  Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are being heavily underrated right now because of their playoff failure.

No doubt that it was a brutal performance, but realistically, John Tavares was injured and if not for that largely ignored, but incontrovertible, fact, the Leafs would have played the Lightning for the Stanley Cup last season.

The Leafs have a pair of goalies who should be seen as one of the top duos in the league.

They have three number-one defenders in T.J Brodie, Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin.  Travis Dermott is also a statistically dominant bottom-pairing player.

Up front they’ve got the world’s undisputed second-best player, and the somehow overlooked Mitch Marner, who, after coming in second in the 5v5 scoring race, scoring at a 100 point pace and providing elite defense, is now in competition with Nathan MacKinnon to be the NHL’s 3rd best player.

If the elite defense was not an aberration, but the start of a trend, then Marner will be the superior player, because they both score roughly the same amount.  Only thing is that Marner is younger and can still get better.

Say what you will about his playoff performance, but the underlying numbers were excellent and that is a far better predictor of the future than the bad results are.

Add in the fact that the Leafs should be the hungriest team in hockey, and the one with the most to prove, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be considered one of the three best teams.