Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the moment you’ve waited for. We have a date and divisions for the 2021 NHL season as Hockey returns to our lives. Andrew and Emma kicked off the previews with the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks respectively and now it’s my turn to bring you the Toronto Maple Leafs 2021 Season Preview. Don’t worry Scott I’ll go easy.
Despite not having to play the Boston Bruins in the first round of 2020’s Stanley Cup Extended Playoffs the Maple Leafs still found a way to bow out at the first hurdle. That now means the Leafs have not made it past the first round since 2003/04. Something needed to change in the Mecca of Hockey and General Manager Kyle Dubas believes adding experience is the answer.
Fellow Vendetta Hockey writer Andrew McGuinness thinks on paper they have a chance:
“On paper, the Maple Leafs have one of the strongest rosters in the NHL. It’s buoyed by incredible high-end talent, a deadly core four with an even deadlier $40.5 million cap hit. It’s also one of the most changed rosters since the bubble burst. Another way-too-early playoff exit saw GM Kyle Dubas change not just personnel, but the team’s style as a whole. The 2021 Toronto Maple Leafs are certainly a different team than the ones that have come up short the last four seasons. But are they better enough to finally get over the hump?”Andrew McGuinness, Vendetta Sports Media NHL Writer.
Dubas added forwards Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds along with defensemen TJ Brodie and Zach Bogosian among others. All four are 30 years old or older while the Cup chasing Thornton is 41. The Ontario native was publicly upset that the San Jose Sharks didn’t (or couldn’t?) move him to a contender during the deadline and with decisions to be made after a disastrous season in the Bay Area it became obvious they couldn’t afford to keep him.
The thing is Dubas has tried this before with Patrick Marleau and the experiment didn’t work. Despite the veteran being a great locker-room presence for youngsters Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs still could not find a way past their first-round jinx. I fail to see how this year will be any different.
They also brought in forwards Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd on one-year deals as well as goaltender Aaron Dell. The last piece may be a stroke of genius as the guidelines announced each team will need to carry three goaltenders. With Freddy Andersen and Jack Campbell looking set as the #1 and #2, Dell will be an adequate #3 having ended last season as the San Jose Sharks #1.
Toronto opted not to sign defenseman Tyson Barrie after trading Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche for him last off-season. They also traded Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a first-round pick in the 2020 Draft and Andreas Johnsson to the New Jersey Devils. These moves were done with the flat Salary Cap in mind however the Maple Leafs still come in $1 million above the $81.5 limit heading into the season meaning a move will need to be made.
Forward Line Predictions:
|Zach Hyman||Auston Matthews||Mitch Marner|
|Alexander Kerfoot||John Tavares||William Nylander|
|Ilya Mikheyev||Joe Thornton||Wayne Simmonds|
|Jimmy Vesey||Jason Spezza||Travis Boyd|
Defensive Pairing Predictions:
|Morgan Reilly||TJ Brodie|
|Jake Muzzin||Justin Holl|
|Travis Dermott||Zach Bogosian|
The Maple Leafs need their young core of Matthews, Marner, and Nylander to mature if they are going to stand any chance of challenging for a Stanley Cup. That won’t be this year but I see no reason why they can’t make the postseason. Depending on what Edmonton Oilers team we get I could see the Maple Leafs winning what is being called the North Division.
Then it’ll be a case of can they get past their first-round voodoo. Don’t get your hopes up Scott but I think this may be the year. Plus you won’t have to play the Boston Bruins!
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