Last Season Record: 35-14-7
Last Season Point Total: 77 Points
Key Departures: Joe Thornton, Nic Petan, Riley Nash, Nick Foligno (joined the winning team), Stefan Nosen, Alex Galchenyuk, Zach Hyman, Freddie Andersen
Key Additions: Nick Ritchie, Ondrej Kase, Josh Ho-Sang (maybe), Alex Biega (maybe), Nikita Gusev (maybe), Curtis Douglas (maybe), Petr Mrazek, Michael Bunting,
Before the Pandemic hit, I came to the conclusion that a playoff confrontation with the Leafs and the Bruins was all but inevitable given that they would clash. If I could say the Pandemic improved exactly one thing in my life, it was never having to expose myself to reheated ten-eleven year old takes on the Boston Bruins by fans who only ever watch them four times a year when the Leafs came to town. Instead, we all got a good watching them bend over backwards to explain how a division of teams largely coasting on cultural roots instead of any sustained success in the last nearly-30 years and then get pasted by the least good one of them all. That was high entertainment, and I’m sad to see it go.
This year, I’m holding out hope that the two end up playing someone else in the first round, but I know that the fate of these teams is to do this dance and ditty until realignment comes.
Because at this point, the Leafs are part of that privileged group of teams that can effectively sim-to-end on the entire season and still come out with 40+ wins. Will there be some inexplicable, especially embarrassing losses? Will they torment their fans by collapsing down the stretch against the hoy polloy of the league? Oh sure, that’s normal for them at this point. But it really doesn’t matter. They have that kind of talent, especially in their top six, to basically power through 82 games without seriously thinking about what any of it meant. Leafs fans are still gonna try, but that doesn’t change the fact they’re mostly worried about nothing; come what may, the Leafs will be making the playoffs. I don’t like it, you don’t like it, but we have to accept that reality together, because together is how we heal.
At least, not on paper, anyway. Because in spite of the Leafs turbocharged, superoctane offense and honestly not-bad defense and goaltenders, they still have some interesting shortcomings.
For one thing, the Toronto wing depth is...kind of suspect? The hope many fans have is that one of their young wingers comes out of preseason looking NHL ready, because the alternative is Nick Ritchie, Michael Bunting, and Ondrej Kase. While it looks like Kase has at long last found some sort of life balance, we know all too well just how fragile his head injuries have made him. That could end up being very bad very quick. Further, while Jack Campbell is honestly a pretty strong goalie, they really don’t have any great options to back him up. All this reads like a team that seems to have the appearance of being good to go, but has internals made from duct tape and wads of chewing gum. If fans feel like labeling the Leafs fraudulent for any reasons other than trolling, I could see how one could find their way to that opinion on their own.
But as Carl Brutananadilewski once said...It don’t matter. None of this matters.
Whatever hardship the Leafs are going through is going to be powered through like a car fixing an engine problem by flooring it. Because the regular season will lie to you and call you pretty and smart and talented all you like for 82 games.
The Playoffs won’t bullshit you, and that’s where we need to know more. Did this offseason really fix anything? Has anything Dubas done outside of make sure the top six is good worked out?
We don’t know yet. But we’re gonna 84 games from now when they and the Bruins are probably tied up in a postseason series again.
Hot Taek: Bruins in 7, and when that happens I unbury any device in my home that has access to social media. Meanwhile Steve Dangle becomes a Kings fan out of grief.
Oh and they trade Nylander or something.