Quick Hit One: I’d Love to See Joseph Woll Get Some Games
The Maple Leafs took a chance and have solidified their situation in net with Ilya Samsonov as the starter and Matt Murray as the backup. Perhaps that’s mostly because Murray injured a knee in a pre-game warmup. Still, Samsonov has shown his value to the team regularly.
Murray’s recent play and his injury had created some doubts about his resilience. I’d love to see the 24-year-old Joseph Woll get some games at the NHL level this season. Even if Murray doesn’t struggle, having Woll ready in case of an injury just seems considerate of the possibilities.
I would also love to see the Maple Leafs come to trust their own development system instead of constantly seeking goalies from other systems. If he proves he can handle it, I’d love to see if Woll could become the next Maple Leafs’ go-to goalie. I love it (as a fan) when the organization’s farm system is developing good players to fit the gaps. The goalie position is one of them.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Maple Leafs could focus on developing their own rather than trading for someone else’s veteran?
Quick Hit Two: Despite Pressure, Kyle Dubas Will Not Risk the Franchise
I recently read a post yesterday that simply assumed that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas would risk it all (would franchise the future) to make a deep playoff run because his job was on the line. I think such speculation is wrong; or, at least I hope it’s wrong. I think Dubas is a solid hockey administrator; but, if he panicked to protect his own job at the expense of the franchise, I would think a lot less of him.
In short, Dubas’ job is to take care of his team. It’s not to protect his own job at the expense of the team. I expect Dubas to be active at the trade deadline, but I don’t believe he’ll sell out the franchise.
I’m unsure of what Dubas will do, but unless I am totally wrong I’m pretty sure what he won’t do. He won’t make a move that prioritizes keeping his job – even if the team fails in the first round of playoffs again.
Quick Hit Three: What are the Key Areas for Improvement at the End of the Season
As the Maple Leafs move toward the end of their season, it seems clear they will make the postseason playoffs. It’s also pretty clear they will play the Tampa Bay Lightning once again. As they engage in their preparations for the postseason, what key areas should they work on?
Here are my choices.
Area One: Creating Goaltender Stability
The team needs to help Samsonov maintain his strong play in the net. At the same time, the team needs to be built around him to provide the most solid foundation for its success.
Area Two: Balanced Offensive Consistency
The Maple Leafs have a talented group (if not an elite group) of forwards. However, the team needs to maintain consistent production throughout the rest of the lineup to become a playoff threat. How do they get more balanced secondary scoring?
Area Three: Improving the Team’s Defence
The Maple Leafs have actually played well on the blue line. But the defence lacks experience. It also might need some toughness and calmness if it is to improve its chances to make a deep playoff run.
Area Four: Special Team’s Improvement (Power-play efficiency and Improved Penalty Killing)
The team could have one of the NHL’s most dangerous power plays, but it doesn’t always work to perfection. Learning how to better capitalize on man-advantage opportunities could give the team an edge in close games. Obviously, as well, the team’s penalty kill needs to play at a high success rate.
Area Five: Maintaining Team Health
The team needs to protect its key players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, etc. even if it means they will not be able to produce banner statistical seasons. One way to ensure the best postseason possible is to help players remain healthy into the playoffs. Specifically, Mark Giordano needs some load management.