The Toronto Maple Leafs Lineup Still Needs Work
It’s hard to fathom that Malgin started the season on the top two lines last year, but by the playoffs, the Leafs forwards were a formidable group.
The core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares were augmented by O’Reilly, Acciari, Knies, and Bunting along with useful fourth-line pieces like Sam Lafferty.
That group had more depth and fewer question marks than the forwards that will start this year. Yet, the ceiling of this current group is much higher.
Bertuzzi may have more upside than Bunting – who knows how much room a power-forward can make for himself when Auston Matthews is drawing most of the defensive attention?
Bunting had two amazing seasons with the Leafs, but Bertuzzi has never played with this kind of talent before. Playing with the Leafs stars could see him soar to new heights.
The potential of Knies has to have the Leafs brass salivating, but he has yet to play a full NHL season.
Gone from last year’s opening lineup on defense are Muzzin, Justin Holl, and Sandin. Playoff contributor Schenn will be missed, while McCabe starts his first full year with the Leafs.
New additions Klingberg and Benoit do not inspire confidence, especially coming from one of the league’s doormats in the Anaheim Ducks.
The current depth chart on defense looks worse than both last year’s opening night lineup and the one that finished the playoffs. The main reason is its lack of versatility. One has to look really hard to see a championship-level defense.
Last year’s starting goaltending tandem of Samsonov and Murray came with lots of question marks. Staying healthy and performing competently was not guaranteed.
Samsonov fit in seamlessly and has returned but with Woll and the veteran Jones in tow. This trio comes with more stability, especially due to the emergence of Woll. If needed, Jones provides a dependable veteran goalie.
Rosters are fluid throughout an NHL season. The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t need to look any further than last year for evidence.
The Leafs have a higher ceiling at forward, but less depth. Their goaltending is stronger than the start of last season, but their defense is considerably less versatile and weaker.
While many see this team as a contender, there are still question marks, especially on defense. The Leafs should easily be a playoff team and finish in the top 3 of the Atlantic Division, but backend help will be needed to bring them a championship.