Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to begin what, hopefully, will be their best ever season.
All of the stars and seem to be aligned in the Toronto Maple Leafs favor, and so I hereby predict that they will win their division and the President’s Trophy and enter the NHL Playoffs as the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
That’s all I predict, because frankly, the NHL playoffs are far to random and the best team rarely wins it all. However, perhaps the Leafs will get lucky when it comes to the NHL’s annual Nightmare of Variance Tournament.
Winning the Stanley Cup is the goal, but all you can really do is try to be the best regular season team and hope things go well from there.
To that end, I think the Leafs are set up to win.
The Stars Align for the Toronto Maple Leafs to Have Best Season In History
Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are healthy and in the absolute primes of their careers.
The Leafs have two good young goalies with upside.
The roster is built for maximum flexibility (If Bertuzzi, Domi and Klingberg do not perform, the Leafs can ditch them for other options at the trade deadline).
William Nylander is a wildcard that either makes the Leafs into the most dangerous offensive team in hockey or nets them the top-pairing defender they may need to go all the way.
Their biggest competitors – Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins- are all facing well-documented problems, and so they should be able to avoid the kind of insane first-round matchup that’s seen them play Tampa twice in a row.
Also, Colorado has a weakened roster, and Edmonton and Carolina both look extremely beatable for so-called top teams.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are running with a rarely seen double-power-forward threat with Knies and Bertuzzi on the left side.
Knies, Minten, Kokkonen and Woll all represent a nice bit of upside.
Overall, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a nicely balanced roster with a lot of stars, and a good mixture of youth, experience, grit and skill.
The only weakness I can see is that their blue-line is very average, perhaps even bordering on bad. It depends on what kind of decline, if any, they experience since five out of their six regulars to start the season are over 30 and one is over 40.
I expect this won’t be an issue because someone will either breakout, or they’ll trade Nylander to get the anchor they seem to need.
I was initially concerned they would run 2 lines that couldn’t score by putting David Kampf on the 3rd line, but promoting Minten suggests they don’t want that, so even if Minten goes back to junior I expect they’ll be looking for someone besides Kampf.
Overall, things have come together nicely for the Toronto Maple Leafs and I think that if they were any other team (other than the one who had repeatedly failed in the playoffs) they’d be the unanimous pick to win the President’s Trophy and be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.