We are in the dog days of summer, and there is little to report in the way of news, trades, & signings. So now that 98% of the pieces have fallen into place for the upcoming campaign, we can look at each club's additions & subtractions and assess what can be expected of them. Most teams are competing for the Stanley Cup, others are at one point or another of a rebuild, retool, or a straight up tank job. With 32 teams to get to, we're going to start with the Atlantic Division. Next up, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Key additions for the Leafs include the following players: G Matt Murray, G Ilya Samsonov, F Adam Gaudette, F Nic Aube-Kubel, F Denis Malgin, F Calle Jarnkrok, D Jordie Benn, D Victor Mete.
Key subtractions: G Jack Campbell, F Ilya Mikheyev, F Jason Spezza, F Colin Blackwell, D Ilya Lyubushkin, F Ondrej Kase.
The Maple Leafs finished 2021-22 4th in the NHL's regular season standings, and they lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. After a grueling series, Leafs fans have to be running on fumes. Zero playoff series wins since 2004 and zero Stanley Cups since 1967, the longest such drought in the NHL.
In '21-22, Toronto was one of the best teams in the NHL despite some of the worst goaltending. Their ability to dominate play, assert their will and seemingly score on command separates the Leafs from almost every other team. While the memes write themselves, GM Kyle Dubas believes in this team & rightfully so. They are among the best teams heading into '22-23.
Goaltending is the story of the summer for this team. They have completely overhauled the position, opting for Matt Murray & Ilya Samsonov over Jack Campbell & Petr Mrazek. It is a bold move for Dubas, who some believe is entering make-or-break territory as Leafs' GM.
It is tough to gauge just how much weighs on goaltending for this team. With such a strong team in front of them, Murray and Samsonov really just need to show up in order for Toronto to mimic last regular season's success.
But this team's success is only measured in playoff wins--and losses. And will Matt Murray be able to once more backstop his team to a Stanley Cup? A betting man would receive tough odds there. Still, Dubas could always add a goaltender, but as always it is easier said than done to do so.
The loss of Ilya Mikheyev and Ilya Lyubushkin could prove significant as well, even with Toronto's depth. Lyubushkin was the equivalent of a brick wall for the Leafs' right side, and Mikheyev was a scoring threat every time he was on the ice.
Ultimately, I think Toronto will take a small step back in the regular season, but if goaltending holds steady and Dubas adds over the year this could be the year the Leafs finally break into the second round and possibly further. They are loaded with talent, riddled with grizzled veterans, and after their brutal defeat to the Lightning, they will go into 2022-23 with a chip on their shoulder, pissed off from being the butt of every playoff joke. In spite of all the noise around them, the Maple Leafs are a top team and they have to break this spell eventually. And with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares at the helm I see no reason why they can't do it this year. Well, except for terrible goaltending. I can see that happening.