In this post, I’ll look at four fixes for the Toronto Maple Leafs that could help them engage in a long postseason run.
Fix One: The Maple Leafs Have to Fix Past Problems
The Maple Leafs have been improving over the past several seasons. Last season, the third line with David Kampf became the team’s shutdown line. This season, as well, there have been a number of improvements. The fourth line, specifically, has been rebuilt.
As a result, there are a number of reasons to be optimistic about the team’s playoff chances this season. When Auston Matthews returns, the first line will be strong again. Michael Bunting was moved off, then back on. He’s working with the unit. The second line of John Tavares and William Nylander are having great seasons. Either Calle Jarnkrok needs to keep playing well, or another scoring/physical winger needs to be brought in via trade.
Plus, the depth of the team will need to help it weather any injuries or other challenges that might arise during the course of the playoffs. Additionally, with the leadership becoming more mature, there’s a chance that the team can improve its on-ice thinking.
Although a number of other teams around the NHL are also strong and will create stiff competition, the Maple Leafs do match up pretty well. If they can stay focused and maintain their level of play, there’s no reason why they couldn’t make a deep playoff run.
Reason Two: The Team Must Be Motivated to Win
Clearly, the disappointments of past playoff exits have been valuable lessons. Can these disappointments be turned into a positive motivation for the team? It’s easy to see how players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have worked to modify their games to become even more successful.
The team has improved depth; however, one need is for the emergence of more secondary scorers in the lineup. Pierre Engvall is beginning to come around, and as noted Jarnkrok has been a decent addition to the team’s second line. The team is more well-rounded and less predictable.
Tavares and Nylander are providing steady scoring. As well, the team’s blue line is playing surprisingly well. Will the inexperience come back to haunt the team? The team has the talents at its disposal to make a long postseason run, now it needs to channel the desire.
Reason Three: The Team’s Blue Line Must Continue to Be Strong (Mentally and Physically)
The team’s blue line has been a huge positive this season. It has become another major factor that makes the Maple Leafs a strong playoff contender. First, however, there might need to be a bigger focus on the team’s physical play but the blue line is definitely an improved area of the team. Second, the team’s inexperience must be tempered by its talent.
In truth, the team’s defence has become one of its strengths. Now, it’s important for the Maple Leafs to make it a mental priority to show up every night, regardless of the opposition. This mental toughness and focus will be crucial in the playoffs, where every game becomes even more intense and physical.
So, having a strong defence and working special teams will help the Maple Leafs as they make their playoff run.
Reason Four: The Team Must Become More Business-Like
The team’s commitment to improving throughout the lineup has been seen by the balancing of the scoring. This isn’t just a Matthews-scores-the-most team. In fact, if anything Matthews has upped his defensive game.
The team must also get down to business on its special teams. The combination of a strong power play and penalty kill can be a game-changer in the postseason. That’s an area that is possible to improve because all the pieces exist.
Special teams can swing the momentum of a postseason game. Having a coach like Dean Chynoweth working on this aspect of the game was a huge asset to last season’s team. Now, a business-like commitment to play well in all situations, both on the power play and on the penalty kill, is key. The strengths in special teams and attitude could give the Maple Leafs a competitive edge as they make their playoff run.
In Conclusion for the Maple Leafs
In conclusion, the Maple Leafs have made several improvements this season that make them more well-rounded and competitive heading into the playoffs. With a maturing roster, improved defence and special teams, and determined on-ice leadership, the Maple Leafs have the potential to make a deep run in the postseason.
Additionally, the team’s improved depth and experience could give them a better chance of success against tough opponents. While no one can know for sure how the playoffs will play out, the Maple Leafs have the pieces.
They are also well-positioned and ready to make a strong showing.