3 major X-Factors that will make or break the rest of the Maple Leafs season

We are in the back half of February, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are holding onto a wild card, so what will ultimately determine whether they return to the playoffs?

Feb 15, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) scores his
Feb 15, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) scores his / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto’s defense and goaltending need to improve in the final two months

The Maple Leafs may be legitimate playoff contenders, but that doesn’t mean they’re receiving an automatic bid for the postseason. Toronto, having spent the previous six seasons as a top-three team in the Atlantic, could see that streak ending, and you can place a lot of blame in the defensive zone. 

Trading for a defenseman would be the quickest way to help fix this problem, and luckily for Toronto, they may be interested in quite a few. There are also several sound goaltenders who would also help the Maple Leafs solve their issues at goaltender, so a lot of hope remains that they can clear up their respective problems by early March and stay on track. 

While trading for someone like Sean Walker or Jacob Markstrom would increase the odds for Toronto to climb back into the Atlantic’s top-three, it doesn’t guarantee that the player they acquire would ultimately factor in as a good fit. 

Either way, making a move before the deadline is the best way for this team to at least sneak into the postseason and hopefully go further than they did in 2023. What Toronto can’t afford, however, is to sit back and do nothing because it will make their road to return to the playoffs that much tougher.