#2 The Colorado Avalanche and the #1 Toronto Maple Leafs
Colorado has a 12 point lead over the NHL’s actual best team, which is the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it’s a little misleading.
While the NHL’s Best Team plays in the NHL’s Toughest Division, the Avs play in the easiest division. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but Toronto , Boston, Florida and Tampa have to play each other a lot, and that doesn’t compare to having to play Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis.
Then there is 5v5 save percentage. The Avs are ranked 2nd, the Leafs are ranked 29th.
But the Leafs are ranked 4th in 5v5 play and 2nd in Special Teams.
Colorado is ranked 11th in 5v5 play and 10th in Special Teams.
Given that 5v5 play and special teams are far more repeatable than goalie performance, I feel these two teams are much more closely matched than the standings would indicate.
When you factor in the difficulty of schedule, they become even closer, and when you compare rosters, the Leafs come out on top, making them the NHL’s best team.
As good as Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantenan are, they would rank 3rd and 4th if we were to list the top four players on each team – Matthews is clearly #1, but Marner is having an MVP season, and scores more than either of the Av’s players while providing better defense.
I love Nazem Kadri and he is having a great year, but he’s not better than John Tavares or William Nylander, and while Gabriel Landeskog might be, I doubt it.
The Leafs have the better forwards and frankly, it’s barely even a competition.
On defense the Avs have the best player in Cale Makar and he might even be enough to equalize the Leafs advantage on forward.
Deven Toews is also a great player and may be better than anything the Leafs can offer. But after that? Toronto might actually sit one of the NHL’s best pairings – Liljegren and Sandin – and Giordano is playing at a level that makes him look 27 not 37.
Colorado gets the nod here, because they have the best two players, but they also regularly play defenseman the Leafs would be scratching. Toronto’s blue line is deeper, but best player wins.
As to the goalies, both are great and injury prone, so who knows. Colorado at least has an NHL back up.
So the scorecard looks like this:
Best player: Toronto
Special Teams: Toronto
5v5 Play: Toronto
Overall, I think it’s fair to say that the Toronto Maple Leafs have the NHL’s best roster, and are thus the NHL’s best team. Take everything I’ve said above, and factor how high the Leafs are in the standings despite some of the worst goaltending in the league.
Outperforming your goaltending is the #1 sign of future success, and that is called Tanner’s Law of Goaltending. You can look it up!
Now, given that this website is a dedicated Toronto Maple Leafs website, I think you’ll have to consider my obvious bias in the equation, but I feel like given the stats and the arguments put forth, that it’s the right call, bias aside.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the NHL’s best team, and they are (or at least should be) the favorites to win this year’s Stanley Cup.
And I fully expect to be proven correct sometime in late June.