The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the most decorated and historical NHL franchises, have been (on paper) Stanley Cup contenders in recent years.
However, one issue has plagued the Leafs arguably every season and often has cost the Leafs at one point or another. Their lack of depth. This article will delve into the various reasons behind this depth dilemma and the consequences they pose for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For starters, let’s take a look at how the Leafs are built. It’s not a surprise to anyone that the Leafs are fairly front-loaded as a roster.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Depth Dilemma: A Critical Analysis
The “Core Four” of Matthews, Marner, Tavares and Nylander make a combined $40,505,616.00 against the Salary Cap. That is a total of 48.51% spread out amongst 4 players.
This might not seem like the best way to use money, but the fact that the Leafs were squeezed by the Covid Cap Freeze and still managed to remain a top team for years, arguably icing the deepest team in last year's playoffs, shows it isn't a problem.
The Leafs would look a lot deeper if the $20 million they spent in the summer on Domi, Klingberg, Kampf, Reaves and Bertuzzi worked out better.
Next, of course, is the defensive imbalance. Toronto (as mentioned before) is a front-loaded team but if they also came into the season with $9+ million alloted to a declining TJ Brodie and an injury riddled, and ultimately unplayable, John Klingberg.
This caused a lopsided lineup that has often led to a variety of line combinations and a rotating door of AHL caliber defenceman to round out the final pairing when injuries arise. The only true mainstay on the blueline is Morgan Rielly.
Despite Rielly’s offensive contributions, the Leafs have a blue-line that is below-average at moving the puck and below average in their physicality.
Another factor that exposes the Leafs' lack of depth is (of course) injuries.
Injuries and Goaltending
These injuries, while unpredictable, often disrupt the momentum and chemistry the Maple Leafs try to acquire as the season progresses. Seriously, how many times have you heard this before; The Leafs acquire a player, that player gets injured, that player comes back for PlayOffs, the lineup goes haywire, first-round exit.
Now, I’m not playing NHL 24 with the injury setting turned to the “off” position. I do know that there are many unfortunate cases where injuries pop up and there's nothing you can do about it. However, knowing this fact, you would think the management or coaching staff would devise a plan to account for injuries.
Take the most recent injury of Calle Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok has been sidelined with a broken knuckle (ouch) and the replacement for him is...RYAN REAVES? This highlights just how desperate Toronto is for any form of NHL depth.
Finally, goaltending. You all knew it was coming.
How can I not touch on the revolving door of goalies that Toronto has been cycling through after Joseph Woll went down with an injury a few months ago? It’s a scary thought when you think about it. “Oh, but Vegas had 8 different goalies during their Stanley Cup-winning season”. “Most teams have a 1A and 1B situation though!”. Yes, this is true. Most teams do have a system of 1A and 1B. Yes, Vegas did have 57 different goaltenders throughout that season and won the cup. What’s the difference?
I’ll let you think about it for a second. Got it? Ok, let’s say it together..3..2..1.. Toronto has no goaltending depth! Their only shot at having any form of depth is if Keefe elects to play Hildeby (a goalie who has never played in the NHL) or if Martin Jones becomes prime Martin Brodeur. Samsonov..well, even a broken clock is right twice a day. The fact is, Toronto can’t compete with other (Cup caliber) teams goaltending depth.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ lack of depth remains a significant obstacle for this season’s pursuit of a Stanley Cup. Although the team does have a high-flying star-studded line-up packed with All-Stars (5 to be exact), the cap constraints, vulnerabilities on the blue line, injuries, and goaltending depth have continued to plague their season.
Treliving and Keefe need to sit down and figure out a way to find a balance and begin to even out the roster not only for this season but the season beyond. Until these issues are resolved, The Leafs may often find themselves falling short of having a true championship roster.
Share this with your Maple Leaf friend who may be looking for answers to Toronto’s recent slump. If you want to share your thoughts about the team (or this article) feel free to get in touch with me via Twitter (@ShowtimeWagon) and let me know how you feel. I love hearing from the readers!