NHL trade deadline or not, the Toronto Maple Leafs are good, but their reality bites.
With the NHL trade deadline tomorrow, we are all waiting eagerly to see what the Toronto Maple Leafs do.
Teams are scrambling to get their house in order. Whether that’s to salvage, to squeak in, to load up, or to rebuild, all teams have an excuse to join in on the action.
As for the Toronto Maple Leafs, getting past Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs is only a beginning – they’re in it for the long haul, to contend.
Reality Sinks in for the Toronto Maple Leafs
Once again, the 2021-22 version of the Toronto Maple Leafs is becoming all too familiar: strong first-half, not-so-strong second-half.
While the Buds struggled to get out of the gates, they soon found their wheels and quickly caught up to the leaders. They have since simmered down to reasonable expectations.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are now in wild card territory.
Not that it matters much, because the way the playoffs are structured – and intra-division reigns supreme – the likelihood the Leafs will have to play either one of the Bruins, Lightning, or Panthers in the 1st round is very high.
And if they happen to avoid any of those matchups, they will get to play the Metropolitan’s top team like it’s some sort of reward. But that’s not the end of the joke; humour me, let’s say they beat the Metro’s best: Round 2 means a return to the Atlantic. The possibilities are frustratingly unsettling (in case you forgot – it’s been a few years).
Trade Deadline Reality
As the NHL trade deadline approaches, teams face the daunting task of addressing their faults. For the Toronto Maple Leafs, they get to do it with essentially one hand tied behind their back.
It’s a troubling proposition. With limited 2022 picks (1st, 2nd, 7th) and cap space (projected deadline cap space, plus LTIR: $3.72 million), the Leafs are working with very little to patch one hole, let alone the many apparent ones scattered throughout their lineup. It’s like staring down the barrels of a Chiappa Triple Crown.
Nobody doubts their firepower at forward, but they could use a top-6 winger to solidify line #2. On line #4, more oomph, and perhaps even more depth down the middle, would be nice, too. On the whole, they’re too top-heavy.
Their defense may be mobile and good at getting pucks up to the forwards, but they lack a dependable defenseman to fill out their top-4. They could also use a net-front presence. By and large, their blueline is too fragile.
Most troubling of all, their goaltending has fallen apart. First-half, Campbell took the bull by the horns and did an unbelievable job of holding it down, but that takes a toll, especially on a first-time every-other-day starter.
Mrazek was signed, essentially as an insurance policy, but he’s been nothing but a liability. He even can’t be trusted to be a dependable backup. For now, everything rests on the shoulders of a 25-year-old Swede who began his NHL career last week.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are enjoying a good season. No matter how you spin it, they’ve performed up to or above expectations, and regardless of your opinion of their direction or build, they’re an exciting bunch to watch. But the real fun is only just beginning.
They are indeed staring down the barrels of a Chiappa Triple Crown. One is bound to go off, and maybe they can dodge it, but two or three? Perhaps it depends which team pulls the trigger, or does that even matter? The reality is they’re in for an uphill battle.