Is This Toronto Maple Leafs Line-Up Better Than Last Year’s?

MONTREAL, QC - MAY 24: Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal near Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens during the second period in Game Three of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on May 24, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MAY 24: Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal near Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens during the second period in Game Three of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on May 24, 2021 in Montreal, Canada. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs line-up is pretty much set for the stretch-run, but is this roster better than last year’s?

When the Toronto Maple Leafs won the North Division last year, many people thought it would be their best chance to win a playoff round and potentially make the Stanley Cup Finals. That obviously didn’t happen as they once again lost in Game 7, in pathetic fashion.

Heading into the stretch-run, the Leafs added Riley Nash and Nick Foligno, who started Game 1 of the playoffs, but neither player made an impact. Obviously, the freakish John Tavares injury changed everything and Foligno’s injury didn’t help either, but overall the team still couldn’t get the job done.

In addition to Foligno and Nash, Toronto signed Wayne Simmonds and Joe Thornton in the off-season, but both of those players unfortunately didn’t add much either.

Of those four players, Simmonds is the only player still on this roster, and it’s quite possible that he doesn’t even play Game 1 when the playoffs start, as Simmonds has been a healthy scratch recently.

Either way, let’s look at the 2020-21 roster and compare it to where the team’s at now.

2020-21 Playoff Roster

Forwards:

Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Nick Foligno – John Tavares – William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev – Riley Nash – Alexander Kerfoot
Joe Thornton – Jason Spezza – Wayne Simmonds

Defense:

Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin – Zach Bogosian

Goaltending:

Jack Campbell
Frederik Andersen

2021-21 Potential Playoff Roster:

Forwards:

Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Nick Robertson/Alex Kerfoot – John Tavares – William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev/Alex Kerfoot – David Kampf – Ondrej Kase/Pierre Engvall
Wayne Simmonds/Ilya Mikheyev  – Jason Spezza – Colin Blackwell/Pierre Engvall

Defense:

Morgan Rielly – Ilya Lybushkin
Mark Giordano – T.J Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl/Timothy Liljegren/Rasmus Sandin

Goaltending: 

Jack Campbell
Petr Mrazek/Erik Kallgren

Which Roster is Better?

Although you can argue that Toronto’s top-six last year was better if Nick Foligno was healthy, the fact is, he wasn’t. Also, since Matthews is a favorite to win the Hart Trophy this year, that top-six is clearly better because he’s arguably the best player on the planet right now.

As for the bottom-six, it’s definitely better this year with the addition of Ondrej Kase. Both Kerfoot and Kase are top-six talent’s playing in the bottom-six, while Toronto’s fourth-line is better without Joe Thornton.

When the playoffs start, it’s possible that someone like Matthew Knies joins the fourth-line as well, which would make that line even better, as you’d have legit offensive production on all four lines.

Last, but not least, is the defense and goaltending.

If Muzzin plays during Game 1 of the playoffs, the Leafs defense is much improved. Not only can Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin play legit minutes if needed, but Justin Holl gets moved to the bottom-pairing, replacing Zach Bogosian from last year.

The addition of Giordano solidifies the defense and makes this year’s defense way better.

The only spot where Toronto is arguably worse this year than last year is in the goaltending position, despite having the same player in net.

We have no idea what Jack Campbell we’re going to get when the Leafs return to action. If we get the 2022 version of Campbell, the Leafs are in trouble. However, if they get the 2021 NHL All-Star version, Toronto can go on a Stanley Cup run and compete with anyone.

Next. Deadline Has Passed, But Leafs Aren't Done. dark

Overall, Toronto’s roster is improved from last year and fans should be excited about the next 20 games and a potential playoff-run.