As the Toronto Maple Leafs prepare for the start of the 2021-22 regular season, the question is whether the team has made the kind of changes they must make to win during the upcoming 2021-22 season? The first order of business is making the postseason playoffs. After that, it’s time to worry about how far the team can go. It’s certainly important, but first things first.
Around Blue and White nation, there seems to be a sense of despair about this team. After the highs starting last season, the feeling this year is less than positive. However, I believe there are a number of positive things about this Maple Leafs’ team.
In this post, I want to outline five things Maple Leafs’ fans should be pleased about as the team heads into the regular season.
Thing to Like #1: The Maple Leafs Have Great Forwards
Few NHL teams can boast the kind of forwards the Maple Leafs have. In fact, they’re so good that it’s become a problem – at least that’s what so many fans seem to believe. There’s a movement to trade away one of these great forwards – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, or William Nylander. John Tavares has a no move clause.
Mostly, those who call for a trade want to dump the salary that goes with these players; however, to lose that salary you also must lose that player. In short, four of the top-six players are elite. They can score in bunches and can carry the team’s offense. I hope Maple Leafs’ fans enjoy these four great forwards while they can.
Thing to Like #2: Their Coaching Staff Was Improved
I believe the high quality of the Maple Leafs’ coaching staff has flown under the radar. But there’s no salary cap on coaches and the Maple Leafs’ organization has a strong staff that’s built to work with the prospects. To me, that spells player development and means we’re likely to see the young players start to emerge up through the system.
Recently, the Maple Leafs hired Dean Chynoweth as an assistant coach. The 52-year-old had a strong history of player development as part of the Hockey Canada Program of Excellence, and was head coach of Canada’s Under-18 National Team and assistant coach of Canada’s Under-20 World Junior Team. The team also hired Spencer Carbery, a 39-year-old who was named the AHL’s outstanding coach last season with the Hershey Bears. Finally, Ryan Hardy became the Director of Minor League Operations, which means he’ll oversee the Toronto Marlies. He’s had a great career with the Chicago Steel, where he built a powerhouse in the United States Hockey League.
Thing to Like #3: The Maple Leafs Power Play Will Be Much Better
The fact that the Maple Leafs’ power play was so surprisingly bad last season will turn out to be a good thing for this season. It was a thing to fix, and you can believe that the Maple Leafs’ brain trust went out and worked on that aspect of the game. I’m betting $5 the power play will be a strength of the 2021-22 season.
One thing you have to say about the Maple Leafs is that, when they see a problem, they’ll fix it. The team’s defence was seen as the problem two seasons ago, and the organization pointed at it, put their heads together, and turned it around. The team had a much-improved defence last season.
They’ll do the same thing with the horrid power play last season. Expect it to be much better. That will make the team’s offense even more dangerous.
Thing to Like #4: The Maple Leafs Defense Will Be Better
Speaking of the Maple Leafs’ defence, it was really strong last season and moved from fifth from the bottom of the NHL to sixth to the top. Except for Zach Bogosian, that defense remains. Morgan Rielly is still solid. A recent TSN article listed Jake Muzzin and T.J. Brodie as the two best defensemen playing for a Canadian-based team.
This is a season where Rasmus Sandin will finally make a push to take a spot on the team. Justin Holl is one of the best value contracts on the team. In short, the defense is now a depth.
Thing to Like #5: The Maple Leafs Have Options at Left Wing
As noted earlier, four of the team’s top-six forwards are elite players. Now the team needs two good left wingers to fill out those first two lines. Zach Hyman’s gone; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t options. Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas went out and found two strong possibilities in Nick Ritchie and Michael Bunting.
Even if these players don’t work out, there are possibilities already on the team. Alex Kerfoot is a solid player and Ilya Mikheyev is great on defense and “only” needs to start scoring. It might not yet be Nick Robertson’s year, but that time won’t be far away. Right now, those two left-wing spots are up for grabs, but there are some pretty decent grabbers.
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