The Toronto Maple Leafs begin the unofficial start of the second half of the season in an interesting position. They are firmly entrenched in a playoff spot, but are, at best, considered a peripheral Stanley Cup contender.
While they should once again reach 100 points, their success has been confounding. Their superstars, mainly Auston Matthews and William Nylander have led the way, but as a team the Toronto Maple Leafs have not been particularly dominant in any area.
With their erratic play, it is hard to get a handle on what type of team this is. The lack of consistency further muddles the picture for the Leafs decision makers.
President Brendan Shanahan, general manager Brad Treliving, and head coach Sheldon Keefe have much to ponder. What is the state of the roster? Should the Leafs make additions at the trade deadline? What is the floor and ceiling of this team?
Assessing The Leafs Roster
For better or worse, the Leafs have committed to their core of superstar players. Matthews and Nylander have met or exceeded expectations. Mitch Marner has had a slightly below-average season, but it's hard to be critical of his play. First-time All-Star Morgan Rielly has been the backbone of the defense, carrying over his fine play from last year's playoffs.
The problem for the Leafs has been the rest of the roster. The return from the Leafs off-season additions has been underwhelming.
Tyler Bertuzzi's strong advanced stats have not produced much actual production. 6 goals in 46 games in a top-six role does not cut it. Max Domi's contributions have also been limited and John Klingberg, perhaps due to injury, was a disaster. Ryan Reaves appears to have no place in the lineup.
Less-heralded additions, such as goaltender Martin Jones and defenseman Simon Benoit, have saved face for Treliving. They have both delivered much more than what was expected of them.
The Leafs are fine offensively with their stars up front, but depth scoring is a concern. Their defense has been a season-long concern and remains so. Each of their goaltenders has had moments of stellar play, but like the team in front of them, consistency is an issue.
The most intriguing individual narratives to follow in the second half revolve around Matthews and Nylander. Can Matthews become just the ninth player in NHL history, and first in over 30 years, to score 70 goals? Can Nylander live up to the heightened expectations that come with his new contract?