Obviously, Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans will not buy this post at all. They’ve gotten their hopes jacked up season after season with a series of excellent teams, only to see them be dumped in the first round of the postseason playoffs. However, this might be a very different year.
The Maple Leafs have everything they need to make the postseason playoffs and go on a good long run while they are on that journey. In this post, I’ll share seven reasons why I believe this is the season the team might break through and win the Stanley Cup.
They are certainly due. It’s been a long time since 1967.
Reason #1: Auston Matthews Wills It To Be So
Auston Matthews won both the Lindsey Award and the Hart Trophy last season. He also scored 60 goals, and he’s getting better each season. He’s one of the elite players in the NHL.
You just get the feeling that Matthews has decided he’s going to carry this team as far as it can go. And, he’s got enough skill to do just that.
Reason #2: Matthews Is Not Alone
Matthews isn’t alone on this team. For as much as Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas is vilified, he’s put together a strong team. The fact that he has four outstanding forwards means that his team will probably make the playoffs season after season.
That’s a good place to start. You have to make the postseason to go on a Stanley Cup run. It would take a complete disaster for the Maple Leafs to not get into the playoffs.
Reason #3: Mitch Marner Has Been a Two-Time NHL All-Star
Mitch Marner is special in its own way. He’s the top right-winger in the NHL, and he’s skilled enough as a 200-foot hockey player that his team is experimenting by putting him out as a defenseman. He’s good both offensively and defensively.
The team has called him a “situational defenseman,” but that means they absolutely trust him to be both able to carry the offence and be skilled enough to be defensively reliable at the same time. Few players can do that. He’s good.
Reason #4: The Maple Leafs’ Second Line is Strong
William Nylander is an underrated offensive playmaker, who can drive the offence alone if he has to. During preseason games, he’s made anyone who’s played with him look offensively skilled.
When he’s playing with Dennis Malgin, Malgin has looked excellent. When he’s played on the line with Nick Robertson, that line has looked excellent as well. Nylander is a really good offensive player. He’ll likely be a point-a-game player this season.
Reason #5: Let’s Not Forget John Tavares, Michael Bunting, Alex Kerfoot & Calle Jarnkrok
This iteration of the Maple Leafs has great depth at the forward position. John Tavares remains a point-a-game player. Michael Bunting is a perfect complement to the first line of Matthews and Marner.
Alex Kerfoot is a Swiss Army knife kind of a player who can fill in anywhere, and he hardly ever is injured. He’s adept at covering for other players’ injuries.
Calle Jarnkrok is a seasoned professional who provides depth that most teams covet. He even played defence during the preseason.
Reason #6: The Maple Leafs Can Score with Anyone, And …
This Maple Leafs’ roster can score with any team in the NHL. That includes the Colorado Avalanche. However, they are also one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. They can also keep the opposition away from their goalie.
Reason #7: If the Preseason Means Anything, the Goalie Situation Might Be Surprisingly Strong
Although it’s a small sample size, the one Achilles’ heel the Maple Leafs have had to overcome this off-season is their goalies. Both Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov have fallen on tough times over the past year or so.
However, both Murray and Samsonov have been excellent in the preseason. If they can carry that kind of goalie play into the regular season, this team can do very well. One reason I believe they can do so is because of what I noted in Reason #6. The team’s defence is better than they get credit for.
The Bottom Line
If the Maple Leafs can get out of the first round of the playoffs, this team has a chance to go on a long Stanley Cup journey. I think there’s a chance they can win it all.