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5 massive questions going through the Maple Leafs in 2022-23


Solely video games present solutions.

However the main questions that may swirl round and form the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2022-23 season are available to debate, whilst we wait yet one more week for coaching camp to start.

Right here’s a look on the big-picture storylines set to unfold over the winter and — possibly, simply possibly — deep into spring.

Will the double-down gamble on goaltending repay?

Press convention bard (and former Leafs coach) Paul Maurice as soon as questioned whether or not the NHL received its center letter appropriate. Possibly hockey’s highest circuit ought to’ve been dubbed the NGL — Nationwide Goaltending League.

For that final line of defence wields such a disproportionate affect over who hoists silver and who will get fired.

To wit: In 2021-22, solely 4 of hockey’s 16 playoff groups certified for the event with a save proportion under the median (Minnesota, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Washington). None of them lived to see Spherical 2.

In the present day, with the Maple Leafs shedding two No. 1 workhorses over two off-seasons, all eyes give attention to their hopeful replacements, each of whom have a lot to show. And should achieve this below a microscope that burns sizzling with criticism.

Of the 61 NHL goalies who made a minimum of 20 appearances final season, the injury-plagued Matt Murray ranked thirty sixth in save proportion (.906) with the Ottawa Senators. New backup Ilya Samsonov ranked twenty fifth with a .911 with the Washington Capitals. Their former golf equipment had little interest in retaining them round.

Not-so-fun reality: Jack Campbell (now an Edmonton Oiler) secured extra NHL victories final season (31) than Murray and Samsonov mixed (28).

Thus, the brand new tandem’s redemption turns into GM Kyle Dubas’s nice wager.

We’re not saying the high-scoring Maple Leafs want elite goaltending to thrive. Toronto scores in bunches and defends higher than most would have you ever imagine.

We’re saying they want a minimum of a wholesome and reliable man in pads — both one — to make yet one more save than his opponent on the different finish.

The Maple Leafs are literally good … however are they really higher? (And does it matter?)

Whereas one other bout of first-round unhappiness clouds the very fact, 2021-22 marked the best common season in Maple Leafs historical past.

The ultimate tally of Toronto’s gaudiest 82-game marketing campaign: 54 wins, 115 factors, a plus-62 aim differential, the scariest energy play in hockey, and 13 gamers registering profession highs in factors.

Getting into ’21, Dubas accurately proclaimed that roster the very best model he’d assembled below his tenure.

Sadly, that evaluation should still maintain true now.

Whereas the defence corps primarily stays unaltered (we see you, Ilya Lyubushkin), it’s questionable whether or not notable losses in internet (Campbell) and up entrance (Ilya Mikheyev, Ondrej Kase, Jason Spezza) have been upgraded with the arrivals of Murray, Samsonov, Calle Järnkrok, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, and Adam Gaudette.

We’re undecided the Leafs will rating as many objectives as final season (315), however with Florida, Tampa Bay and Boston all anticipated to regress barely, they won’t must.

Coach Sheldon Keefe has positioned nice emphasis on successful the Atlantic Division and securing dwelling ice come spring.

Alas, outdoing Tampa within the winter doesn’t assure you’ll achieve this by the thaw.

The place the Maple Leafs match and end in what needs to be a much less lopsided division shall be a dialogue. However will probably be a moot one if the core can’t ship in April.

How sizzling are these seats?

That historic 2021-22 displaying started in a gap. Keep in mind?

The Maple Leafs received thumped, in succession, by the Sharks, Penguins and Hurricanes final October and — honest or not — job insecurity was within the air.

With president Brendan Shanahan remaining loyal to Dubas, and Dubas sticking together with his head coach and his core, after this group’s sixth consecutive one-and-done post-season, is administration’s job on the road?

“I believe it is a honest query. I really feel it is on the road yearly, and I am judged on the finish of each season. I do not essentially really feel there’s extra of a stress; I simply suppose it is an important factor for me personally to assist ship for the group,” Dubas mentioned this summer season. “On daily basis I am getting up attempting to do the whole lot I can to assist our group, and clearly the top aim is that we’re having success when it issues — within the playoffs.

“As a lot as we wish to simply fast-forward all the best way there, if we skip all these steps, we’ll fall properly brief. So, I completely perceive the query, however I do not deal with it any in a different way. I put a whole lot of stress on myself to ship for the individuals who have employed me and the people who I work with. And that’ll by no means change.”

The Leafs can’t win October.

If they begin easy, it’ll be, “OK, nice. Wait until playoffs.”

In the event that they stumble, panic may percolate properly earlier than Sport 7, and Daniel Craig received’t be the one one selling knives out.

What color of cape ought to Matthew Knies select?

The highest-heaviness of assistant GM Brendon Pridham’s stability sheet may benefit from significant contributions by way of homegrown younger gamers nonetheless on their entry-level contracts or rising out of them.

Is that this the winter left wing Nick Robertson makes a everlasting leap to the massive membership and punishes a number of NHL goalies together with his depraved shot? Can Timothy Liljegren and/or Rasmus Sandin not solely proceed their promising trajectory however vie for top-four minutes on the again finish?

Or does Leaf Nation step by step construct all of its anticipation for the conclusion of the College of Minnesota Gophers’ season and place its nice expectations on new hope Matthew Knies, who goals to give the roster a lift heading into the post-season.

Will they win a freaking playoff spherical?

In fact, there is just one query that wants answering.

Sure, we’ll distract ourselves with fourth-line competitors and John Tavares winger debates by means of the winter. Certainly, exterior debate shall be waged over how a lot bargains Michael Bunting and David Kämpf will command on their subsequent contracts.

But the one factor that issues can’t be addressed for months.

Let’s recycle these phrases in regards to the Maple Leafs, from Jon Cooper.

“I see a hell of a hockey group,” the Lightning coach mentioned, previous to extending Toronto’s run of playoff futility to 18 years. “They’ve been a hell of a hockey group that has run into some unhealthy breaks come the spring. And it appears that evidently, for no matter purpose, they haven’t received over the hump but. However they’ve a group that undoubtedly can.”

Yep, they’ll.

However will they?

7 bonus questions: Will Auston Matthews threepeat as Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy champ?… Can Mitch Marner snatch his denied 100-point marketing campaign?… Is the opportunity of a daring transfer — cough, Patrick Kane, cough — nonetheless within the playing cards?… Will Keefe strive reuniting Marner with Tavares?… Who blinks first within the Rasmus Sandin contract standoff?… Do Justin Holl and Alexander Kerfoot skate out their present contracts in Toronto?… Does Zach Aston-Reese’s PTO result in a roster spot?




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