By Stan Smith
The Toronto Maple Leafs need three things to help push them over the hump in the playoffs. First, they need a Hart Trophy-winning, Conn Smythe candidate forward. Second, they need a Norris Trophy-winning, Conn Smythe candidate on the defence. Finally, they need a Vezina-winning, Conn Smythe candidate goalie.
If they can acquire those three things, hoisting the Stanley Cup should be no problem.
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Seriously, It’s Time to Take the Next Step
Seriously though, there is one thing they need to take that next step. The Maple Leafs have maybe their best depth at the defence that this edition of the team has had. Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin have taken the next step in their development. Despite their recent swoon, they are one of the top defensive teams in the league.
Their goaltending is what it is. They have a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Matt Murray if he can stay healthy, and they have a backup goalie that has a .650 winning percentage in his NHL career, in Ilya Samsonov.
If we focus on their forwards we see they have five players who are a lock in their top six.
These forwards are Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Michael Bunting.
They have the following players that have been bottom six players or AHL regulars for the majority of their careers (as long and short as these have been): Calle Janrkrok, Alex Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf, Pontus Holmberg, Zach Aston-Reese, Joey Anderson, Dryden Hunt, and Bobby McMann.
They have two aging, one-dimensional forwards in Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford.
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Is It Time for GM Kyle Dubas to Make a Splash?
Janrkrok has had recent success in the top six scoring 14 points in his last 15 games. The question is can he sustain that? Kerfoot has shown he is a much stronger third-line player than a solid second-liner.
If general manager Kyle Dubas wants to show he is seriously going for it this season, and his job might depend on it, he needs to go all in on an impactful difference-making player to play in their top six. At whatever the cost.
The first pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft is a start. After that, any draft pick or prospect should be in play. Even Matthew Knies should not be untouchable if the player coming the other way is more than just a rental player. Players in the bottom six on expiring deals, such as Kerfoot and Engvall should also be in play.
The window for this version of the Maple Leafs is rapidly closing. Big changes are coming, whether it be to free up money to pay the core in their next contracts or to replace them if that fails.
It’s Time to Go All In
The time for this team to go all in is now.
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