Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Key Questions As Preseason Approaches

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 23: Auston Matthews #34 and William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs look on against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 23, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 23: Auston Matthews #34 and William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs look on against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 23, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

Is Defensive Help on the Way?

It is hard to imagine the Toronto Maple Leafs defense, as it currently stands, being championship caliber.

Luke Schenn and the polarizing, but useful Justin Holl departed during the offseason. Free agent John Klingberg was signed coming off a terrible season that was split with the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild.

The puzzling part of adding Klingberg is that offense is his strong point. He is better suited to distribute the puck and help on the power play. Blocking shots, physical play, and removing opposing forwards from the front of the net are not his calling card.

The Leafs must hope that Klingberg’s improved performance with a stronger Wild team is more a reflection of the player they are getting. If they get the version that was in Anaheim, the losses of Schenn and Holl will be felt.

With the future of rugged defenseman Jake Muzzin uncertain, the Leafs once again find themselves short of a tough, physical presence on the blue line.

Right now Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake McCabe, and likely Liljegren make up their top 4. Klingberg and Mark Giordano are the third pair, with Connor Timmins in reserve.  Though obviously with Klingberg’s salary and Keefe’s lack of faith in Liljegren come playoff time, it wouldn’t be surprising if they are swapped,

McCabe is the only one who brings a physical presence. Giordano can block shots, but he is beginning to show his age and should not be relied upon for important minutes.

Rielly will once again log huge minutes for the Leafs. He showed he is capable of handling the role based on his performance during last year’s playoffs. However, should he miss any significant time the Leafs are in massive trouble.

The play of the Leafs defense will be a key early storyline this season. It’s the most substantial weakness this team has.

The offseason addition of Klingberg won’t be enough. Reinforcements must be acquired for the Leafs to be considered a serious championship contender.