Many people seem to be writing the Toronto Maple Leafs off to miss the playoffs again for the 5th consecutive season. The reason being that the Maple Leafs offense and goaltending are both huge question marks, but after the off season that the Leafs had, I find it hard to write the Leafs off yet.
People are complaining the Leafs lack a goal scorer and with no big names on offense the Leafs will not be able to put goals in the net. While it may be true that they do not have a major goal scorer, the Leafs were 10th overall in the league last year in goals for. The offense from last season has not changed much this season with four players that scored 20 or more goals last season (Jason Blake, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski) coming back again for the 2009/2010 campaign. With the youth up front if a player can have a break out year, the offense has some potential. Even a mediocre offensive year in terms of goals for, would put the Leafs as a above average team.
The Leafs may have been 10th overall in the league last years for goals for, but they were last in the league in goals against. Brian Burke addressed this in the off season and helped the Leafs defense this off season became bigger, more experienced, and stronger. A case can be made that it is one of the better defensive groups in the league. Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, and Garnet Exelby are all excellent additions by Burke. The Leafs are now very deep defensively speaking.
Goaltending is another question mark for the Leafs. The Leafs added Joey McDonald and Jonas Gustavsson, which can only help take the load off Vesa Toskala. Toskala could not play to full potential last season due to his injury. One has to wonder how he will do competing for the starting job. Although I do not believe Gustavsson is ready for the NHL, Joey McDonald is not terrible and can definitely hold his own in the NHL. Do the Leafs have the best goaltending in the NHL? No, but they are not the worst that’s for sure.
My prediction is that the Leafs have the potential to be around 7th to 10th in the Eastern Conference. If the Leafs can get good offensive output from the players they have, along with above average goaltending from Toskala, playoffs are in reach for this team. They are a bubble team this year, but give it a year or two and the Leafs will be constant playoff contenders with all the youth they have in their organization. Brian Burke is doing a great job as GM and he has the organization moving in the right direction in less than a year. Where do you think the Toronto Maple Leafs will place this season?