The Toronto Maple Leafs will embark on a new season Wednesday against their long-time, original six rival the Montreal Canadiens.
With the dawning of a new year, hope springs eternal for a tortured fan base that has endured a 56-year championship drought. That happens to be the longest active streak in the NHL (as if fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs need another reminder).
There were a lot of offseason changes, both on and off the ice. Former general manager Kyle Dubas has a new home in Pittsburgh with the Penguins. Brad Treliving was hired to replace him.
Treliving was tasked with reshaping the roster around the returning core of key players Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly.
Toronto Maple Leafs Season Preview
Many unrestricted free agents departed. Gone are Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Justin Holl, Alex Kerfoot, Luke Schenn, and Michael Bunting. Sam Lafferty was traded to help the Leafs comply with the NHL salary cap.
Treliving chose to sign Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and John Klingberg to replace them. He signed head coach Sheldon Keefe to an extension and, more importantly, inked superstar Matthews to a new 4-year deal that will keep him in Toronto for five more seasons.
The upper-echelon talent of the Leafs key players ensures they should be contenders for years to come. Still, the previous years of playoff failure saw the championship window shrink a little more and urgency increase.
The Leafs enter the season as a top contender for the Stanley Cup, but they do have flaws, most notably on defense. Many look at their back end and see the need for an upgrade to be considered a serious threat for a title.
As the opener for another hopeful season approaches, let’s pier into our crystal ball and predict what we foresee happening.