This is part two of our series of season previews for the seven Canadian-based NHL teams.
See also: Edmonton Oilers
Toronto Maple Leafs
2016-17 record: 40-27-15 (95 points), 4th of 8 in Atlantic Division, eliminated by Washington in 6 games in 1st round of playoffs.
Key off-season additions: F Patrick Marleau, F Dominic Moore, D Ron Hainsey.
Key off-season subtractions: F Brooks Laich, F Brian Boyle, D Matt Hunwick.
Probability of winning the Cup*: 6.7%
Probability of making playoffs*: 68%
*derived from betting odds posted by Bodog
Last season’s story
From opening night, when No. 1 pick Auston Matthews scored an NHL-record four goals against the Ottawa Senators, to a six-game loss to Washington in the opening round of the playoffs, the 2016-17 season was one that defied the managed expectations of the Maple Leafs’ front office. Matthews’ 69 points (40 goals, 29 assists) led the team and earned him a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, which only served to overshadow the achievements of fellow rookies Mitch Marner (19-42-61) and William Nylander (22-39-61), as well as a maturing Nazem Kadri (32-29-61). At fifth in goals scored (250), the offence wasn’t a problem, but the defence (242 GA, 22nd) showed it still needs developing. Frederik Andersen (33-16-14 in 66 starts) proved the team’s faith in him as a No. 1 when they signed him to a five-year, $25-million deal. Perhaps most impressive about the team’s turnaround from its last-place showing the season prior was the playoff performance against top-seed Washington, pushing the Capitals to six games, five of which went to overtime.
With such a young team, the Leafs went “old” in their acquisitions, signing free agents Patrick Marleau (38 years old), Ron Hainsey (36) and Dominic Moore (37). The Leafs are being deliberate in the development of their valuable young assets and while the veteran trio is not expected to be around if and when the team wins a Stanley Cup, their influence is considered vital to the ultimate goal. Perhaps the biggest move, though, was the seven-year deal the Leafs gave 25-year-old D Nikita Zaitsev.
And because it’s Toronto, there could not be a summer without some juicy headlines, and the Joffrey Lupul is-he-or-isn’t-he healthy provided that fodder. So they had that going for them. Which is nice.