I feel somewhat embarrassed to say that I completely missed the Franson extension that I had been hammering my drum about. All I can say is that it’s been busy at work lately, and I have had less energy to read NHL transaction logs at night.
As previously, I am relying on Capgeek’s depth chart [site has since been taken down] for this preview, as I find it better than others in the industry in terms of player positions, for example. Sorry for how late it is. I really haven’t had time lately.
Maple Leafs Team Overview
The Leafs made the playoffs last year for the first time in so long I don’t even want to talk about it. Additionally, they took the eventual Eastern Conference champions to 7 games. Of course this led to terrible, nonsensical arguments about how that made the Leafs the second best team in the Eastern Conference.
That was more than any of us could have hoped for, given how superior Boston is, when on their game, to the Leafs and given how poorly the Leafs season had actually gone.
Because, you see, the Leafs lucked out more than any other team last year:
- They had the best team-wide luck.
- Shot-differential and other indicators of long-term success suggested that they were significantly worse than 5th in their conference.
- By more traditional standards, the Leafs were the 6th best offensive team in the league but the 18th best defensive team – something management seemed to blame on Reimer if the off-season is anything to go by.
- Hockey-reference’s simple rating system – based on goals for and against and quality of competition and not on shot differentials – had them at 11th overall.
If I had more faith in goals for and against as long term indicators, I might think more positively about this upcoming season but alas I do not. It’s shots that count, long-term. If a team is consistently out-shot, they will eventually lose more games than they win. It’s just the reality.
So though we might be hoping for a return to the playoffs this year based on last year’s surprises, I don’t have my hopes up.
Position by Position
I am going to address each segment of the team, using the aforementioned depth charts as a rough guide. I am going to put people in each spot based on where they should be, but also mention why or why not they might not be there at the start of the season (and who might take their place).
- All salary numbers are in millions.
- Best seasons for skaters or for players who have played at least 50 games.
- Expectations are rose-coloured and best-case-scenario.
Maple Leafs Forwards
The First Line:
LW: Joffrey Lupul, 30
- Salary: $5.25; under Contract Until: 2018
- Last season: 11G, 7A for 18P in 16 games, +8, 16:07 ATOI
- Career 82-game average: 25G, 28A for 52P, -7, ATOI 16:10
- Best season: 2011-12: 25G, 42A for 67P, +1 in 66 games
So last year I wrote how this spot was Lupul’s to lose after his career year courtesy of Phil Kessel in 2012. Lupul met my expectations in goals and +/- but did not play enough because of the usual reason why Lupul never plays enough: he has managed to be healthy for 531 games since 2003! (Any of you who support his ridiculous contract, please re-read that last bit over and over again. That’s absurd. That’s not even 6 1/2 seasons out of the last 9.)
But I still think this is Lupul’s spot to lose, provided he is healthy. He has an undeniable chemistry with Kessel and the same thing cannot, as yet, be said about Clarkson.
So even though I strongly believed that Lupul should have been traded last year, instead of re-signed to a stupid stupid contract, now that he is signed for a retarded contract they might as well try to make the best of him. And that means playing him with Kessel which means playing him on the top line.
What I will be happy with from Lupul this season:
Healthy! 25 goals, 35 assists, a plus.
C: Tyler Bozak,27
- Salary: $4.2; under Contract Until: 2018
- Last season: 12G, 16A for 28P, -1 in 46 games; 20:19 ATOI
- Career 82-game average: 18G, 28A for 46P, -14; 19:20
- Best season: 2011-12: 18G, 29A for 47P, -7 in 73 games
The Leafs solved their problem of not having a #1 centre by buying-out their best centre and signing their second or third best centre to a contract that wasn’t as terrible as what he wanted but still ranks as one of the worst deals in the entire league. Look at Bozak’s 82 game average.
- Name me a legitimate #1 centre in this league – even in this offensively-impoverished era – who manages 46 points per season.
- Worse, Bozak is terrible defensively to add to his offensive mediocrity.
- Finally, he really isn’t anywhere near as dominant on faceoffs as the Toronto media would like you to believe: 53% last season is not dominant.
But the Leafs can’t really play him anywhere else, due to his contract and due to the fact that he is better with Kessel than without. (Whether or not Kessel is better with him is another question with the opposite answer.) Re-signing Bozack to such a deal is certainly one of the stupidest decisions the Leafs have made in some time.
What I will be happy with from Bozak this season:
40-something points, above 50% on faceoffs, near 0 on the +/-.
But I have low expectations for a guy whose offensive output has not increased with his increase in ice-time.
RW: Phil Kessel, 26
- Salary: $5.4 this season, $8 per season until 2022
- Last season: 20G, 32A for 52P in 48 games, -3, ATOI 19:49
- Career 82-game average: 30G, 32A for 62P, -6, ATOI 17:48
- Best season: last season
The Leafs should have had a few main priorities this summer and one of them was deciding what to do with Kessel. They waited until the day before this season started and signed him to a deal that didn’t surprise me but didn’t make me happy.
Now, I don’t for a second know whether or not Kadri is ready to have the Leafs hang their hats on his shoulders – to mix metaphors – but I feel like the Leafs might have been better off trying to see what they could get for Kessel this year instead of giving in and saying “Yes, Kessel is our franchise player.”
Because, of course, the problem with that is that Kessel is not a franchise player. He has managed a PPG at or above one for the past two seasons but this is out of a career of over 500 games.Though Kessel can be offensively dominant with the puck – is a lot of time – and he has drastically improved as a set-up man – if last season is anything to go by – he is still a winger, he is still unable to play defense consistently, and he still can disappear at the end where he is most effective.
I have yet to be convinced that he is anything but a complimentary piece on a championship team, which is why I believe that this contract is more proof of concessions to mediocrity that my “Campaign to Fire Brian Burke” predicted.
The Leafs will not win a Stanley Cup with Phil Kessel as their best forward.
(The problem with paying Kessel $8/year is that it becomes harder to sign better free agents in the off-season – if it wasn’t impossible to do so at reasonable rates already. And any players the Leafs develop – Kadri, for example – draft or trade for who are demonstrably better than Kessel in some way – and this includes goalies and D – will want more than $8 per. So it’s a nasty precedent, as was Grabo’s deal, which arguably helped set up this one.)
That being said, as the closest the Leafs have to a franchise player, the first line must revolve around who works best with Kessel. Lupul is on here because he has great chemistry with Kessel. As is Bozak, which is why I put those two guys up here with him
Hopefully, the Leafs somehow find a solution to Bozak at #1 during this season but I am not holding my breath.
What I will be happy with from Kessel this season:
40 goals, 50-60 assists, a minus less than double digits – that’s right, he should earn his money, if he is going to get paid this much; he should score like a star already.
The Second Line:
LW: James Van Riemsdyk, 24
- Salary: $4.25; under contract until: summer 2018
- Last season: 18G, 14A for 32P in 48 games, -7, ATO 19:12
- Career 82-game average: 22G, 22A for 44P, +2, ATOI 15:06
- Best season: last
So let’s all relax a little bit about JVR. Yes, he had his best season of his career last year, but it was a short one and it came while he played about 4 minutes per game more than any previous season.
And he didn’t increase his production that much. JVR’s career numbers are still very much 2nd line and though I would like to see him as a legitimate replacement to Lupul – so hopefully the Leafs can somehow rid themselves of that terrible contract – I really don’t see it so far.
JVR is going to have to show he can score more than .5 PPG a season, over a full season, before we should believe he is some kind of star player.
What I would be happy with from JVR this season:
30 goals, 25 assists and a +
C: Nazem Kadri, 23
- Salary: $2.9; under contract until: 2015 (restricted)
- Last season: 18G, 26A for 44P, +15, ATOI 16:03
- Career 82-game average: 21G, 31A for 52P, +11, 15:34
- Best season: last
Well I’m convinced.
Last year I wanted the Leafs to keep Kadri in the AHL for one full season because I thought his early AHL numbers didn’t convince. But I was totally completely wrong.
Yes, Kadri still struggles with some aspects of playing centre – faceoffs! – but on the whole, even with his luck, which will obviously be worse this year, this guy is a player. He may indeed be the future of the team. We don’t know because of the aforementioned luck but also because he played so little last season – and so often with such mediocre wingers.
Kadri needs a full season at the #2, with legitimate line-mates – not fucking Colton Orr – so the Leafs can see what they actually have in him. Is he a decent #2 or is he more than that?
What I would be happy with from Kadri this season:
30G, 50 assists, keeps up his plus – I’m not actually expecting this by any means but I’d love it if he forces the Leafs to question who their franchise player really is.
RW: David Clarkson, 29
- Salary: $5.25; under contract until: summer 2020
- Last season: 15G, 9A for 24P in 48 games, -6; ATOI 17:136
- Career 82-game average: 19G, 14A for 33P, ATOI 14:07
- Best season: 2011-12, 30G, 16A for 46P in 82 games, -8, ATOI 16:22
The bidding war on Clarkson still mystifies months after it is over. Clarkson is not even a .5PPG career player. Whatever else he brings to the table, he does not score at the rate the media and the fans have convinced themselves he does. To give you a comparison different from the one I made when he signed, who do you think had the better career year,
- David Clarkson, the Leafs new $5 million man,
- or Nikolai Kulemin, the one member of the Leafs formally dynamic second line that remains with the team?
The answer, or course, is Kulemin, who once put up 57 points, a total Clarkson has never come close to. I mention this only because Clarkson is on the Leafs – with this terrible contract – because a false narrative has distorted the kind of player he is.
A similar false narrative, and a really bad season here or there, has convinced the same people that Grabo is no good, that Kulemin isn’t that valuable a player, and that MacArthur was not contributing to the team. I mention this simply because the Leafs had one of the best second lines in the league a couple seasons ago – so good, relatively speaking, it was really their first – and yet they have pretty much completely replaced it.
I like Kadri a lot and I have hopes for JVR, but Clarkson does not, in my mind, represent an improvement. I think this contract, along with Bozak’s, will come to haunt the Leafs management, likely well before it is even half over.
What I would be happy with from Clarkson this year:
Career highs in everything, which I am totally not expecting, especially with the suspension. For those of you who care, career highs would mean: more than 30 goals, more than 20 assists – he has never managed more than 16 asssists in a season (Jesus Fucking Christ! Ahem) – and a plus for only the third time in his career.
The Third Line:
LW: Mayson Raymond, 28
- Salary: $1; under contract until: this summer
- Last season: 10G, 12A for 22P in 46 games, +2, ATOI 15:49
- Career 82-game average: 18G, 21A for 39P, +4, ATOI 15:16
- Best season: 2009-10, 25G, 28A for 53P, 0, 17:20 ATOI
Someone else who has performed better offensively than Clarkson at one point in the past is the Leafs new $1 million man, Mayson Raymond. Alright, now I will stop trolling everyone who is a fan of the Clarkson signing…
Raymond is fast, he is generally effective and, perhaps most importantly for these Leafs, he is cheap. He is a good pickup. I think he should be pretty useful.
What I would be happy with from Raymond this season:
10G, 15A, a plus – I say this because Raymond will likely not get enough ice time to do more.
C: Dave Bolland, 27
- Salary: $3.375; under contract until: this summer
- Last season: 7G, 7A for 14P, -7, ATOI 16:20
- Career 82-game average: 18G, 24A for 42P, +9, ATOI 16:26
- Best season: 2008-09: 19G, 28G for 47P, +19, ATOI 16:27
Bollland is overpaid but he is usually effective – when healthy.
I don’t think we should expect all that much out of him as he shouldn’t play above here, unless he has some kind of crazy chemistry with JVR and / or Clarkson.
Hopefully the Leafs will see what he is this season and not feel any kind of need to extend him at more than he is already making.
What I would be happy with from Bolland this season:
10-15 goals, 20ish assists, plus.
RW: Nikolai Kulemin, 27
- Salary: $2.8; under contract until: this summer
- Last season: 7G, 16A for 23P, -5, ATOI 16:44
- Career 82-game average: 17G, 24A for 41P, 0, ATOI 15:53
- Best season: 2010-11: 30G, 27A for 57P, +7 in 82 games, ATOI 17:19
Obviously after the past two seasons Kulemin has something to prove offensively. Defensively, despite that minus, I still maintain he is one of the best defensive forward on this team. (Now that Grabo is gone, it’s between him and McClement.)
To jump ahead in the space time continuum slightly, did you see that pick he made that set up the Leafs first goal of their first game this season? He may have lost his hands a little, but the man knows how to play. I know some people think he makes too much, and he likely is if he can’t make 17 minutes a game, but I still think this guy has value to the Leafs.
What I would be happy with from Kulemin this year:
15G, 30 assists, a plus – and that’s optimistic, depending on playing time.
The Fourth Line
LW: Jamie Devane / Frazer McLaren / Troy Bodie
CapGeek has Devane here, McLaren will obviously play in certain circumstances, but it’s Bodie – borderline NHLer Bodie averages 8 minutes per game when he plays – who has made it on the ice in this spot the first two games. The Leafs – and the sports media – and their AHL reclamation projects remain fascinating.
What I would be happy with the player in this spot this season:
No double digit minuses, no embarrassing moments, no stupid penalties – I can dream.
C: Jay McClement, 30
- Salary: $1.5; under contract until: this summer
- Last season: 8G, 9A for 17P in 48 games, 0, ATOI 15:15
- Career 82-game average: 10G, 16A for 26P, -10, ATOI 15:07
- Best season: 2006-07, 8G, 28A for 36P, + 3, ATOI 13:53
I was really skeptical of the McClement deal last year and I was wrong. He had one of his best offensive seasons of his career and, more importantly, showed he was the team’s best defensive forward during Grabo’s slump. (Perhaps this is why the Grabo buyout became more than just an option.)
McClement, who is already 30, will never be good enough offensively to play in the top 6, but we – perhaps just me, as maybe the rest of you knew this already – now know that he can fill in on the 3rd line reliably whenever required. He is good at what he does and he is paid properly for it.
My one fear is that he will want a significant increase in pay if he has another solid year this year, and the Leafs may be tempted to replace Bolland with him in terms of ice-time (yet to be seen) and money. That would be a bad idea. A player like McClement is very valuable – both on the ice and as trade bait – under $2, but is horribly over paid when he starts earning $3.Not saying that will happen, just throwing that out there.
In the meantime, I’m glad they signed him and I was wrong to object.
What I would be happy with from McClement this season:
15 goals, 20ish assists – depending on ice-time obviously – and 55%+ on face-offs
RW: Carter Ashton, 22
- Salary: $1.04; Under contract until: this summer (restricted)
- Last season (AHL): 11G, 8A for 19P in 53 games, +5
- Career 82-game average (AHL): 21G, 16A for 37P
So Ashton has this job whenever Carlyle decides Orr isn’t needed. He is young, which seems to inspire so many fans with hope that he will be more than a third liner, but in 32 NHL games he doesn’t have a point.
I like what I see in him so far, as do many others, but we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking he’s some kind of prospect just because we traded a prospect for him. (Incidentally, Aulie wasn’t exactly trusted by his coach last season, managing only 12 minutes per game.) But I’d rather see him in this spot than Orr.
What I would be happy with from Ashton this season:
Some scoring would obviously be nice. But basically his job is let other players rest, so as long as he doesn’t allow too many goals, I am happy.
Last year I covered a bunch of players I thought wouldn’t / shouldn’t make the team including
- Ashton (who I was right about),
- Colborne (who the Leafs finally figured out was not a legit NHL prospect),
- Kadri (who I was very wrong about),
- Orr (who I hate regardless of how Carlyle loves him) and some others.
In the interests of time, I will not do that this year. I will just say that the Leafs appear to have less forward depth than they did last year – obviously trading Frattin for a goalie has something to do with that – and this is interesting and perhaps problematic given that they are right up against the cap. When the injuries come – and they always come but they will especially come to a team that employs Bolland and Lupul – this team could very much have a bunch of average AHLers filling its lower ranks. And that won’t be pretty.
My unfounded hopes for the forwards this season include:
- The Leafs come to their senses and trade Lupul when his value is up;
- The Leafs come to their senses and trade Bozak before the entire rest of the league realizes what (a minority of) Leafs fans already know;
- Kessel scores 90-100 points without being on the ice for 100+ goals against;
- JVR does not take a step back;
- Kadri improves despite his likely regression and forces the Leafs to think hard about keeping him over Kessel;
- David Clarkson surprises the hell out of me and is actually really good;
- Raymond plays well enough that the Leafs can actually consider making some of the above moves;
- Bolland stays healthy;
- Kulemin bounces back offensively;
- the 4th liners other than McLaren and Orr render McLaren and Orr unplayable because of their effectiveness.
Maple Leafs Defense
The First Pair
Dion Phaneuf, 28
- Salary: $6.5; Under contract until: this summer
- Last season: 9G, 19A for 28P in 48 games, -4, ATOI 26:47
- Career 82-game average: 15G, 32A for 47P, 0, ATOI 25:02
- Beast season: 2007-08, 17G, 43A for 60P, +12, ATOI: 26:25
So Phaneuf had a bit of a comeback last season, putting up his best offensive numbers as a Leaf while playing the most minutes he has since coming here. So that’s something.
But the problem is that, barring a return to his worst seasons in Calgary and his first seasons here, it makes it far more likely that the Leafs will commit to a Kessel-Phaneuf core into the 2020s. (And at what cost? With Kessel making $8 and Phaneuf being played as if he was one of the best D in the league, or at least one of the most valuable, isn’t Phaneuf likely to demand something similar to what Kessel has just signed for? Ugh.)
So I can’t say I’m optimistic about the outcome of his pending free agency. With the Leafs in full “We’re a playoff team now” mode, there is no way they will trade this guy – at his peak value as a Leaf – to make cap room and to make the commitment to a team where the D is anchored by someone better than Phaneuf. (Hopefully, that will eventually be Gardiner, but we do not know. And if it isn’t Gardiner, then that incredibly unpopular other option – which I have been advocating since before Burke got here – seems to me the only way to go.)
But since that is not happening, I guess we might as well prepare ourselves for a $7-$8 per year, 5-8 year commitment to Phaneuf before the end of this season. Giving us a locked-in core which will never be good enough to properly compete.
Ah well, I am getting ahead of myself.
What I would be happy with from Phaneuf this season:
Most ice time on the team, close to 15 goals and 35 assists, a plus for once would be nice.
Carl Gunnarsson, 27
- Salary: $3.15; Under contract until: 2017
- Last season: 1G, 14A for 15P in 37 games, +5, ATOI 21:17
- Career 82-game average: 4G, 21A for 25P, +1, ATOI 20:33
- Best season: last season
Nonis’ second best decision of the summer was to extend Gunnarsson, the Leafs’ most consistent D game-in game-out, even if he can’t score. (To be fair, he did score at a career high rate last year, while playing the most minutes per game.)
Despite the discrepancy in ice-time between Phaneuf and him, Gunnarrsson was actually the Leafs’ second most used D after the Mike Kostka Experiment crashed and burned. (That is a blog post on its own, I feel like.) Locking up Gunnarrsson for the next few years was a major step and regardless of what happens with Phaneuf, the Leafs need a #2 like Gunner to watch over the #1.
What I would be happy with from Gunnarsson this season:
Gunnarsson plays like I want him to. The only thing more I would like from him is that he keep up his offensive increase from last season, that would be great.
The Second Pair
Jake Gardiner, 23
- Salary: $1.116; Under contract until: this summer (restricted)
- Last season: 0G, 4A for 4P in 12 games, -1; ATOI 20:29
- Career 82-game average: 7G, 25A for 32P, -3; ATOI 21:29
- Best season: 2011-12, 7G, 23A for 30P in 75 games, -2, ATOI 21:35
So putting aside the silly idea of playing Gardiner over Franson in 2011-12, there is still the whole not-playing Gardiner issue of 2013. Yes, he had a concussion for some of it, but Carlyle’s reluctance was bizarre. (Further to that, Gardiner is, in a terrible sample, only playing 16 minutes a game so far this season.)
Hopefully, there is no personal animosity between the two and we can forget about the last year. Because, though he is still young, Gardiner looks to me, and apparently most other Leafs fans, like he might be the real deal. Yes, he makes mistakes, but he is only 23.
For me, Gardiner is, along with Kadri, what little internal hope this team has of being better than an 8th playoff seed / just missing the playoffs type team for the next 5-10 years.
What I would be happy with from Gardiner this season?
What I want is 20 minutes a game, but I don’t know that Carlyle will give it to him. Personally, I think it’s more important that Gardiner is played as the #3 D – and Kadri the #2 centre – than it is that the Leafs make the playoffs this year. I’m sure that’s an unpopular opinion, but that’s what the Leafs should do.
Mark Fraser, 27
- Salary: $1.275; Under contract until: this summer
- Last season: 0G, 8A for 8P in 45 games, +18, ATOI 16:57
- Career 82-game average: 2G, 7A for 9P, +11; ATOI 13:43
- Beast season: last season
Fraser is only here because I think pairing Franson and Gardiner is kind of asking for it. But Fraser clearly played well above what was expected of him last season – often with Franson, so obviously it would make more sense to put him there were Paul Ranger not the only other option.
Fraser is likely just a stand-in until the Leafs can get someone else. Unless of course he keeps up what he did last year, and then it would make sense to keep him around regardless of how minor a role he used to play on his other NHL teams.
What I would be happy with from Fraser this year:
Obviously he will not match that +18 this season. Frankly all I want form him is that he shows it wasn’t a mistake to keep him around. Especially now that Liles appears to be buried in the minors.
The Third Pair
Cody Franson, 26
- Salary: $2; under contract until: this summer
- Last season: 4G, 25A for 29P in 45 games, +4, ATOI 18:47
- Career 82-game average: 7G, 26A for 33P, +10, ATOI 15:54
- Best season: last season
Franson appeared to be one of the best offensive D in the season last year. We have to be careful, as it was a short season and Franson pretty much doubled his offensive rate, but there is reason to hope that, provided he has protection, and provided he plays a lot on the power play, he can continue to score. He makes the odd mistake, but if he scores like he did last season, that’s okay.
(By the way, in a terribly small sample Carlyle is playing Franson a lot so far this year, after the Leafs nearly failed to sign him, so that’s interesting.)
What I would be happy with from Franson this season:
10G, 30A would be pretty great, while staying plus. He isn’t going to score .64 PPG in a full season, likely, but it would be great if he could do .5.
Paul Ranger, 29:
- Salary: $1; Under contract until: this summe
- This season: hasn’t played in the NHL since 2010
- Career 82-game average: 6G, 22A for 28P, -3; ATOI 21:22
Ranger is obviously a place holder as the Leafs were having trouble signing Franson and wasn’t sure who else was going to play on the season. Holzer disappointed everyone – none more than me – last year and so Ranger is here I guess until the Leafs can find someone else to play.
What I would be happy with from Ranger this season:
No mistakes and a plus.
So with Liles down below, the Leafs are scavenging for warm bodies. So now we have Ranger. Rielly needs to be kept down to learn the pro game – I’m glad it appears that management sees that at least temporarily – and so the Leafs will have to live with some marginal D – Ranger, perhaps Fraser – at least until they make a move or feel like they can bring up Holzer or another AHLer.
So it’s going to be interesting to see who ends up playing with who and what happens if (when) somebody gets hurt.
#1: James Reimer, 25
- Salary: $1.8; Under contract until: this summer (restricted)
- Last season: 19W, 8L, 5 “other” in 33 games, .924, 2.46
- Best season: last
Reimer made his case last year: he played in nearly as many games as the season before – when he had concussion issues – and he was better all-around. He definitely had one of the best seasons by a goalie in recent Leaf history. And the Leafs responded to that by trading for Bernier.
Fortunately, the Leafs seem to have committed to him so far this season, so hopefully he will get his fair shake this season – a contract year – and the Leafs can have a better sense of who the starter should be.
Back-up: Jonathan Bernier, 25
- Salary: $2.9; Under contract until: summer 2015
- Last Season: 9W, 3L, 1 “other” in 14 games, .922, 1.88
- Best Season: last, but Bernier has never even started even 1/3 of his teams games in a given season
Bernier’s numbers are great, but Bernier has never played much behind Quick. Now he is paid more than the Leafs’ starter, which is obviously problematic. Fortunately, the deal is for a short enough period of time that two things can hopefully happen: either Reimer falls off a cliff and is allowed to walk and Bernier is extended, or Reimer shows that last season was what we should expect and the Leafs extend him and Bernier is then allowed to walk after next season – or extended at a reasonable rate. I hope this is the plan.
It makes sense now – though using Bernier’s money to, say, continue paying Grabo or something like that might have made more – and Benier certainly appears to be a better second option than any of the other Goalies the Leafs had. But it is still weird to pay your back up 50% more than your starter for a year, especially if Bernier only makes it into, say, 25 games in each of the next two seasons. (We do not yet know if Reimer can hack more than half a season, either, to be fair to Nonis.)
We were all shocked that the Leafs addressed the one problem they didn’t have at the beginning of the off-season, but I do see the sense in it now: what if Reimer got hurt or what if he had a bad season? (Obviously, from my perspective, this wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would be from the Leafs’ perspective.) Scrivens wasn’t about to be a full time NHL goalie.
That being said, it sure does feel like they have more faith in Bernier at this point, at least on paper. (Obviously the decision to start the season with Reimer says otherwise.) I get that a certain degree of goaltending competition is healthy, I just worry that Reimer and Bernier will not differentiate themselves enough from each other this season to make the Leafs’ decision easy. Hopefully I am wrong and Reimer – or Bernier – is the real thing.
Maple Leafs Team Summary
Last year I thought the Leafs could either really suck or just squeak into the playoffs. They just squeaked into the playoffs and now most Leaf fans are expecting more playoffs. My question is, how exactly?
The Leafs were a top offensive team last year mostly due to luck. And they were an average defensive team last year due to Reimer. So we’ll see if they can make it back in again. If the do, it will likely be in 8th again, and we can’t expect another near-win in a series against a top team. But I think it is more likely they will barely miss, barring some kind of major trade – crossing my fingers – and that last season is the beginning of years of mediocrity until someone – clearly not Nonis – has the balls to do what Burke never did.
In the interim, this is our core:
- Kessel (through 2022)
- Clarkson (through 2020)
- Bozak (through 2018)
- Lupul (through 2018)
- JVR (through 2018)
That’s your Leafs for the next half decade. Are any of you as skeptical as I am regarding a Bozak-Clarkson-Kessel-Lupul-JVR core winning a Stanley Cup in that time, without a major addition?