The Toronto Maple Leafs are my favourite team, if you haven’t been able to figure that out yet from me mentioning them in almost every preview so far.
I’ve seen the good years, the bad years, and the “just okay” years.
After many years in a dumpster, the Leafs are finally good again and I couldn’t me more excited.
The Leafs forwards are centred around three sophomores. We haven’t seen young talent like theirs since
Steen, Wellwod, and Stajan 1673, or something. All three could end up being consistent 70+ point scorers. I’m drooling at the thought.
Auston Matthews – He had 40 goals in his rookie season last year. Four of which were in his first career game. He is a superstar already. What’s equally impressive is his commitment to defense. Leaf fans still can’t believe he’s on our team. The honeymoon phase might last his entire career.
William Nylander – Free Willie! He is Matthews’ running mate on the top line. He’s a tremendous passer and has great speed. He finds a way to hide from the defense on the ice. Perhaps it’s because Matthews has their attention.
Mitch Marner – Sometimes I think he could be the next Johnny Gaudreau, and other times I still think he’s 12 years old and snuck on the ice somehow. He could be one of the premiere passers in the NHL within the next few seasons, if he isn’t already.
Nazem Kadri – He’s slowly turning into Ryan Kesler and I’m loving it. He’s a physical, offensive threat, who has turned into a reliable defender.
James van Riemsdyk – Still hard to believe we got him for Luke Schenn. Thanks, Philly. JVR likes to try and put the puck between his legs and roof it into the net, while standing in front of the goal crease. It never works anymore, but he always tries it.
Connor Brown – What’s not to like?
Zach Hyman – He scores shorthanded goals.
Patrick Marleau – OH MY GOD WE GOT PATRICK MARLEAU.
Leo Komarov – He speaks about 46 languages (slight exaggeration) and none of them are coherent.
Morgan Rielly – Mike Babcock didn’t play Rielly on the power play that much last season and it didn’t make much sense to me (Babcock wanted him to become better defensively first). This season, he is, and has 17 points in 20 games. His career high is 36 points. He also has a 0 rating, which is much improved from previous seasons of -20, -17, -16, -13, etc.
Jake Gardiner – He’s a great skater and good offensively, but he can make you yell at the TV screen sometimes (many times?)
Notable: Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev
Frederik Andersen – The best goalie the Leafs have had since Ed Belfour in 2006. Chris will read this and scream “James Reimer” at his computer screen. Sorry, Chris. Ain’t so. I finally trust our goaltending. Thanks, Frederik.
Curtis McElhinney – He’s been a solid backup since coming over from Columbus last season. He isn’t a pushover, so that’s encouraging.
1. They will always be better than the Montreal Canadiens. I don’t care how many Cups Montreal has won.
2. The Leafs made the playoffs last year in an 82-game season for the first time since 2003-04. The playoff appearance in 2013 has an asterisk, since they only played 48 games
(Thankfully! They normally struggle down the stretch.)
3. The mascot is Carlton The Bear. He wears #60 because their old arena – Maple Leaf Gardens – was located on 60 Carlton street. He once startled me by banging a drum right behind me. Good times.
4. If you want overpriced food, all you have to do is look at the concession stands at the Air Canada Centre. A pizza slice and drink will cost you about $12+, and a limb to be named later. Save your money, buy an entire pizza after the game for the same price.
5. The Air Canada Centre is being renamed Scotiabank Arena next year. I’m not a fan.
6. The Leafs haven’t had a Captain since they traded away Dion Phaneuf in February 2016. Auston Matthews
better be will probably be named Captain for the next season.
WHAT CHRIS THINKS
Toronto is just so good. I can’t believe two years ago, the season was just waiting to see how bad the team would finish to see where they would draft in the summer. Curious to see what happens with JVR and Bozak, and wouldn’t mind seeing another defensive defenseman.
LAST MINUTE OF PLAY
The Leafs went from rebuilding to “win now” mode as evidenced by the signing of Patrick Marleau.
The Leafs gave the Capitals a scare in the first round last year, taking them to 6 games before being defeated. We were actually winning the series at one point.
I think Mike Babcock brings a paternal characteristic to this young team and the players are hanging on his every word because they don’t want to let him down.
The Leafs will make the playoffs this season and I hope they win at least one round. How far they go, I don’t know.
But for the first time since the early 2000s, a Stanley Cup doesn’t seem that far away.
The Leafs might be the best team in Canada (insert evil laugh).
ONE WILD PREDICTION
Six Leafs will score at least 20 goals this season.
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