The Maple Leafs should be a serious threat in 2013-14
Me, I think differently, I operate on my understanding of the game, and what I watch. The Leafs were right in the mix in the Eastern Conference, tied with Washington for fourth with 57 points, putting aside the fact that Washington had one more win then we did and that they were gifted third spot in the conference over Boston by the previous method of playoff seeding.
There were some teams in the East that had their fair share of injury issues, but so did the Leafs. Right at the start of the year we lost arguably our best player, Joffrey Lupul who only played 16 games due to injury and a short suspension. We lost our starting goalie James Reimer for a 2-week stretch in February and we lost Gunnarsson for 11 games as well.
We suffered in the face-off circle in both the offensive and defensive zone, with only one solid face-off man in Tyler Bozak. Our leading scorer Phil Kessel started the season with 4 points in the first 9 games, and had two stretches where he went 9 games without a goal. Also we lacked some size up front, given the style of hockey that Carlyle expects these guys to play.
Our PP and GA/Game were average at 14th and 17th in the league respectively.
All that being said we were able to ride into the playoffs on the back of the 2nd best PK in the league and the 6th best GF/Game.
During the off-season, Dave Nonis has done his best to make us stronger where we are weak and I think he has done a better than decent job. He has made us bigger and stronger down the middle and on the wing by acquiring Dave Bolland from Chicago and David Clarkson from the New Jersey Devils.
Bolland should fit in nicely as our third line center adding some size, grit and making us stronger in the face-off circle. He also adds a great deal of experience, after winning two Stanley Cups and scoring the Cup winner this past season, he knows what it takes to win.
Clarkson could very well be the best addition to our second line that was available, adding size, toughness, and a decent scoring touch he should fit into Carlyle’s style like a glove, and compliment Lupul and Kadri very well.
With the addition of some size, scoring ability and depth right through to our third line, it should take some of the attention off of Phil Kessel and allow him some breathing room, with teams being forced to spread their defensive specialists out to provide coverage for a very talented second line.
With Reimer having had some issues with injuries over the past couple of seasons Nonis went out and provided a little insurance and quite possibly a new starter, when he acquired Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings. This could end up being the best goaltending duo in the NHL next season; it would not surprise me at all. I think Reimer has earned his spot as the number one, but an injury or a run of a few bad games could change that easily.
The key like most teams in the NHL is our ability to stay healthy. We won’t be able to avoid injuries all together but if we can keep them to a minimum we should be better than good.
Maybe three-quarters of the way through last season I said that the only team in the East that we would have a problem with come play-off time would be the Bruins. After what has taken place in that organization during this off-season I am even more confident that with our style of hockey we could walk out of the new Atlantic division and the conference.
I think our team is built to win play-off games and I strongly disagree with people who think that we will be un-successful this upcoming season. There is not a team in our conference that the Toronto Maple Leafs is incapable of beating.
Two solid goalies and four lines–well, I have seen teams with the cup with less. I think our boys are a serious threat to every team in the league, I like our chances.