The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t get much better this summer, but they sure didn’t get any worse.
Last season the Toronto Maple Leafs had the 27th worst 5v5 goaltending in the NHL. Every single other team with goaltending that bad missed the playoffs. The 19th ranked goalies on the Edmonton Oilers were the next worst to make the playoffs.
The most accurate way to measure the best team in the NHL is to find out which team out-performed it’s goalies by the largest margin.
Skater performance is fairly steady. No one in the Leafs core should fall off too much, and the roster offers lots of upside. If the Leafs roster was good enough get 4th place overall with the 27th best goaltending last year, it will very likely perform similarly this year.
But goalies are much more random, and the most likely outcome is to be league-average, which would be an absolutely massive upgrade from 27th, one which would easily put the 4th place team into 1st.
So who is the best team in Canada?
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who are also, in my opinion, the NHL’s best team. That the Leafs are the NHL’s best team is my opinion based on how I perceive the NHL’s current rosters. However, it is not my opinion that they are Canada’s best team.
That, my friends, is a self evident fact.
Toronto Maple Leafs are Canada’s Best Team
Let’s check in on the Contenders.
Edmonton: Obviously Canada’s second best team by virtue of having McDavid and Draisaitl on their roster. The Leafs, unfortunately for Edmonton, cancel out their top two, while the Oilers have no counter for Nylander-Tavares-Bunting.
It is also hilarious how many ex-Leafs they have. Hyman, Ceci, Barrie and Campbell couldn’t win on a much better, much deeper Toronto team. Edmonton can always get lucky in the playoffs because of their stars, but the Leafs were 11 points better with some of the worst goaltending in hockey, and Edmonton didn’t come close to closing that gap this summer.
Calgary: Canada’s third best team had an awesome summer considering the cards they got dealt, but they are clearly worse, as Tkachuk and Gaudreau are better than what they replaced them with.
Ottawa : They should be better, but only comparatively. I doubt their defense and goalies are playoff worthy at this point.
Vancouver: You can’t win in the NHL by building the most average roster possible. This poorly managed team is stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Winnipeg: Thhey have a bad roster filled with old guys and b-level stars. They have an excellent goalie, but who knows how far that can get you (maybe really far, it just depends). Unless Hellebuyck wins the Hart Trophy they will miss the playoffs.
Montreal: They already have a lot of talent on their team, so hopefully they aren’t accidently good, because another top draft pick next year and they will be set for a decade of greatness.
The Leafs, meanwhile, have two Hart Trophy Contenders, five star forwards, one of the best blue-lines and probably the league’s deepest roster. Sure the goalies are a wildcard, but that’s true for pretty much every team but Tampa.