3. The Leafs Penalty Kill Will Struggle
In the past couple of seasons, the penalty kill had been one of Toronto Maple Leafs main strengths. After ranking as low as 24th back in 2020-21, the Leafs drastically improved in the area, ranking near the top 10 in each of the past two seasons.
Primarily, their success were fueled by the play of forwards Alexander Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, Ilya Mikheyev, Mitch Marner, and David Kampf, along with the rock solid defending by Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, and Mark Giordano.
In addition, as much as people despise of Justin Holl’s play during his tenure with the Leafs, he was still a key player on their successful penalty kill for the past two seasons.
Overall, no matter which group of players were on the ice to handle the duties, they were so dominant with their speed and defensive abilities that their penalty kill sometimes turned into a “power kill”, where they seemingly would have even more chances at scoring than defending while a man short.
Now that almost all of them are gone other than Marner, Kampf, and Brodie, it will definitely be a hard task to replace the departed electric group of players with the recently added pieces.
Sam Lafferty is decent at the job, but probably not on the same level of any of the aforementioned players above. Jake McCabe can be solid, but he certainly is no Muzzin or Luke Schenn in clearing out bodies aggressively from the front of the net. And don’t even count on Max Domi, Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Reaves and John Klingberg in being effective in a penalty kill role either.
As a result, look for the Leafs to have a hard time keeping the puck out of the net this year while they are a man short, unless both goalies end up playing out of their minds and manages to keep as many pucks out as possible.