Thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs So-So Start to the Season

Jun 1, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CANADA; Toronto Maple Leafs new general manager Brad Treliving is introduced at a press conference at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 1, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CANADA; Toronto Maple Leafs new general manager Brad Treliving is introduced at a press conference at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite a solid effort Saturday in Tampa, the Toronto Maple Leafs have gotten off to their usual slow start.

Over the past several years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have played close to .700 hockey for the season if you ignore October.  This year, they are trending in that direction again, with two of their three wins being white-knuckle come-from-behind affairs.

This year, with Kyle Dubas gone and Brad Treliving in, a new era of uncertainty unfolds, and it seems some fans are much too quick to throw everyone, and everything, under the bus.

It hasn’t even been a month and already the hunt begins for a scapegoat. Though some criticism is fair, it’s worth mentioning that this team just turned over almost half their roster and may need some time to gel.

It’s Early: Let the Toronto Maple Leafs Work Things Out

The Leafs have not played up to their potential expectations, but they also haven’t been a complete disaster (with the possible exception of Samsonov).

Despite the strong production of their usual star players, including NHL Goal leader Auston Matthews, the rest of the team has struggled to click early on.  Newcomers John Klingberg and Ryan Reaves already causing some to be at-arms over their play. Despite the optimism over Max Domi’s signing in Toronto, the 28-year-old has struggled to put it together, and yes, patience runs only so thin. On the other hand, the amount of Games Played is just 5. If this was the Playoffs, Toronto would still have 2 or 3 more chances left.

There’s many reasons for Leafs fans to feel negative right now: The team fired the architect of this team, the new GM has been underwhelming, the core hasn’t gotten it done in the playoffs, and the blue-line is clearly missing both physicality and star power. 

All are fair criticisms, but this is still the same basic team that has been among the best in franchise history for the last four years.

The Benefit Of Giving The Leafs Time To Figure Themselves Out

Brad Treliving wasn’t going to be perfect starting from Day 1. As intelligent and knowledgeable the new Leafs GM is on the game of Hockey, naturally, things take time to click, especially for a team with multiple new moving parts.

Perhaps it’s the benefit of the team that Sheldon Keefe is still at the helm, Toronto having to balance a revamped roster under a new bench boss. Keefe’s presence at least gives a sense of familiarity to the core members of the team. Forgotten in the spotlight of Kyle Dubas, the wonderkid, was Keefe, a longtime collaborator and equally important to Toronto’s success.

Tyler Bertuzzi, despite just 1 Point in 5 Games, had still looked like a decent player. Bertuzzi, who has been playing with an injury, has shown some two-way confidence that can improve once he’s more in the groove of things.

Fellow LW add Max Domi has also gotten some knocks over a lack of scoring, but he was solid with two points Saturday against Tampa.

As I alluded to earlier, new D acquisition John Klingberg has struggled in his first few games, struggling to find himself as a defensive option for Toronto. The Leafs bet that he’d find his game, and maybe he will. If not, he is on a one-year deal and can moved later.

And finally, I’ll turn to the one player everyone cannot seem to stop talking about. Whether you love him or hate him, everyone seems to have an opinion on Ryan Reaves right now. I’m of the belief that if like the aforementioned players that Reaves had a one-year deal instead of being signed for three-years, we wouldn’t be having this conversation over his play.

A silver lining is that a proven defensive grinder in Reaves is locked up as a long-term piece for Toronto, something fans have been clamoring for, and with a revolving door of attempts to add grit to their bottom-six, maybe we should be a bit glad that there’s finally an option there that isn’t just a stopgap for the next tough guy.

There’s still a lot, and I mean a lot, of Leafs Hockey still left to play.

There’s still time for things to turn around and for the club to mold their question marks into exclamation points in time. It’s just too early to not give Brad Treliving and Co. the time to figure it out.

I’m sure Treliving and Keefe both want the team to be better, and are analyzing their options. And in time, if things don’t go their way, they’re lucky their top signings are on one-year contracts, with salaries that are movable.

Next. 5 Stars the Leafs Could Trade for At the Trade Deadline. dark

Regardless to how they started the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are clearly cup contenders.