The Toronto Maple Leafs currently have a four-point advantage over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL’s Atlantic Division standings. If things go as they should, the Maple Leafs have a good chance to gain home-ice advantage in the first round. What they have to do is to keep winning.
Over the next while, they have that chance. They will be playing against teams (a) with lower rankings (the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks) and (b) who are in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. It’s important for both the Blue Jackets and the Blackhawks to finish last in the NHL.
Although it’s not kosher to say as much, almost everyone knows that the organizations involved hope to tank. Because, if they do, they’d have the better chance to select the one young player who could be a franchise-changer. That’s Connor Bedard. From what I’ve seen, he’s that good.
There’s a Good Chance to Extend the Maple Leafs’ Second-Place Position
As a result of the context and circumstances, the Maple Leafs have a good chance to extend their own need of winning and (actually) help those teams with lower rankings by beating them. Hockey can sometimes be odd that way.
There’s no doubt that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas already knows both the strengths and weaknesses of his team as well as what direction he wants to move in at the upcoming trade deadline. He’s probably not going to learn much about his own team in the next while. What he will do is try to enhance his chances to win during the playoffs.
The Maple Leafs have a strong team with a solid record. They have won 31 games and lost 13 in regulation and eight games in overtime. Over the first 52 games of the season, the team is tied for third overall in points and fourth in point percentage.
They are good. Furthermore, the team’s record is even more successful because they’ve lost a good number of man games because of injuries. And, they have experienced success despite those adversities.
In short, the Maple Leafs are a good team with a chance to be better. They are a well-rounded team with strengths in all areas. But there are areas the team could improve.
What Will Happen at the Trade Deadline?
For Maple Leafs’ fans, it will be interesting to see how things unfold as the trade deadline approaches. How will the team address its needs? What does GM Dubas think the team’s direction should be as it engages in putting the team over the top?
Because the team is already playing well; and, if they hold onto second place as they should, the moves the organization will make will be made with the direct intent to improve the team’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup. Will they go big? Or, will they temper their choices given the fact that – regardless of what happens during their Stanley Cup journey – there will be hockey in 2023-24?
Does Going Big Involve Jakob Chychrun?
It’s possible that the Maple Leafs trade for Jakob Chychrun. However, given the “ask” by the Arizona Coyotes, such a trade would likely be could be complex. That trade would also require a significant package of players moving the other way. The Maple Leafs would have to make it worth the Coyotes’ while.
Regardless, the team’s focus is threefold. First, the Maple Leafs want to secure home ice advantage. Second, the team wants to continue to build momentum for the postseason. Third, the team wants to make changes that would putting them in the best position for success in the playoffs. Those have to be the goals for the Maple Leafs.
To Win the Stanley Cup, You Have to Beat the Best Teams
Bring on the Lightning. If the Maple Leafs are to win the Stanley Cup, they have to beat the best in the Atlantic Division to do so.
Why not un-plug the Lightning first? Then, it’s likely to be Boston Bruins second. Putting them into hibernation would be ever so sweet as well.