TLN Roundtable: Where do the Leafs land?

Despite being a bad and/or awful hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs are somehow earning points and, dare I say, creeping into the playoff picture. But where will they actual finish in the standings after 82 games. More importantly, where will they draft? Our Roundtable discusses…

Jon Steitzer

In the past couple of months, the Leafs have been trending upwards as they gain comfort with the new systems that have been put in place by Mike Babcock, and they’ve gone from completely unreliable goaltending to being able to count on Bernier, Reimer, and Sparks to be able to step in and win games. All of this is very encouraging and could see the Leafs find their way into the realm of being a bubble playoff team.

Of course, this overlooks the fact that the Leafs have at least eight players that very publicly have “For Sale” signs attached to them, and are likely to follow through on moving at least four of them before by the trade deadline. The Leafs also have 21 games to play after the deadline and it’s likely they’ll take a step back during that time.

The Leafs won’t be the only sellers at that time and since Carolina, Columbus, Winnipeg, Buffalo, and others are all likely to take big steps back as well, I still can’t see the Leafs landing in the bottom five of the league.

I’m assuming there will be significant enough changes to have the Leafs drafting 8th overall (not factoring in the inevitable lottery win) and they’ll select Julien Gauthier.

Tom Hunter

When Mike Babcock took control of the Maple Leafs he promised the fan base that there would be pain and after a 1-7-1 October, it looked like this season would see plenty of it. After the abysmal start, the team’s play has changed drastically. The team looks to be getting more comfortable in Babcock’s system every time they play and career years from guys like Bozak, Komarov, and Peter Holland has the team winning far more than anyone had expected.

Sitting 14th in the league in goal differential the idea that the play can be sustained isn’t completely insane especially if they are able to get any sort of consistent goaltending. That being said, even with the drastically improved play, they are still only a game over .500 since the start of November (15 wins in 29 games).

I don’t think they are as bad as they were in October, nor do I think they are as good as they’re playing now. The team has improved but still sits in the bottom-5 of the league and with the impending sell-off at the deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Leafs finishing closer to the bottom-5 than others might. Part of this is based on a belief that someone below them is going to make a bit of a push. Look at the Oilers, they are in a terrible division and might be under the belief that buying at the deadline is the right move for them.

My bet is that the Leafs finish about 24th in the overall standings. That would put them at the #6 draft position and give them the opportunity to draft a forward from the Mississauga Steelheads. Unlike in 2014, this time they pass on the kid named Nylander to draft his linemate Mikey McLeod.

Adam Laskaris

The Leafs will finish 24th in the league this season, one spot above their current position in 25th. It’s hard to predict exactly where the team will finish, exactly when they’re just four points out of 17th and two points ahead of 28th place in an extremely tight bottom of the league.

And while the Leafs will be looking to sell whatever assets they can for draft picks and young prospects, let’s face it: they’re not going to completely clean house, as that’s nearly an impossible venture to manage. It’s unlikely they’ll completely bottom out- as they appear disinterested in self destructing and have been playing alright hockey over the past couple months- and, for the time being, appear to have competent goaltending on more nights than not. However, they’re not going to be good enough to put make a playoff run- and seem to have a management group smart enough to turn the team away from that position if the possibility does arrive, and they’ll teeter themselves right in the middle of the pack in 24th place.

Regardless, Toronto’s going to draft first and select Auston Matthews. This is the year they win the lottery. 

  • Corno4

    Mcdavid Still Hurt Leafs ? lol , we will Win Auston as well.

    Can you imagine ?? Hey Toroto , mmm turontoe…what ever.

    Mcdavid – Matthews. LOL , Man will i rub it in your face every single day.

    PS –

    MCDAVID.

  • Dr.Awesome

    No matter were wi finish outside playoffs we could end up with a top 3 pick:

    “For 2016, the Draft Lottery will be utilized to determine the top three slots, with 14 teams in the mix for the top pick, the 13 teams for the second overall pick and 12 remaining teams for third overall. That means that the team finishing dead last would be guaranteed to draft no lower than fourth overall”

  • STAN

    Unless they can get high first round picks from the Columbuses, Buffalos and Edmontons of this league they should hang on to their core – Reilly, Kadri, JvR and Komarov.

    Everyone else should be trade bait.

  • Gary Empey

    If Leafs pick 6th I expect them to take a defenceman. Jake Bean from Calgary Hitmen or Sergachev- Windsor or Olli Juolevi from London.

    These western teams have cap space and playoff potential.
    Nashville. Arizona, Colorado, Anaheim, and maybe Winnipeg.

    This is likely where Toronto could swing a deal.

  • Gary Empey

    Considering that this guessing game is taking place right after the World Juniors, the above analysis is inexcusably pathetic.
    The World Juniors saw five U18 forwards and one D-man tie or surpass McDavid’s tournament best of last year, and two of you take a pass on them, for a couple of players outside the top-ten, not just showing no logic, but ignoring Hunter’s ranking of players.
    McLeod and Gauthier got exactly zero points at the World Juniors. While McLeod wasn’t even invited, Rasmus Asplund centered Sweden’s first line. I would take Gthr and Mcld 19 and 20.
    As for Leafs, Parenteau to the Isles for a 2nd, Reimer and Pollack also go for 2nds, Bozak and Phaneuf for a 2nd and 1st. Even if their replacements from the Marlies are just as good, it will take them that one month adjustment. So they will tank. Meanwhile, Carolina has played even hockey since the 0-9 start, while Edmonton will continue to climb when McDavid returns. Only Buf seems really bad, and will surely get one of the three lottery picks. So one way or another, Leafs wold add another 1st line forward or 1st pair D-man. And it’s time to talk about all those other 1st or 2nd line picks!

  • STAN

    You guys are really bad at this eh? Remember how not one of you had Bozak playing higher on the depth chart than 3rd line and some didn’t even have him on the roster in your predictions before the season started? – Bozak is currently the Leafs’ best points per game producer.

    You’re right that the management will remain committed to the ‘picks for Hunter’ strategy and trade away expandable assets but has it not become clear to you that Babcock can get anyone to play well and have you forgotten that he never missed the playoffs with Detroit? He won two consecutive golds for Canada in the Olympics – that’s 2 for 2! He doesn’t lose.

    Now think about who will be taking those spots that are vacated by the trade deadline – youngsters that are overripened and ready (like Leivo, Carrick, Harrington, Corrado, Frattin etc.) and veterans (‘salary dumps’) who will be fighting tooth and nail for their summer contracts – in other words – players that are no worse than those they will be replacing. The system is in place and pretty much anyone that can skate and handle the puck will slot in just fine, let alone a bunch of hungry NHL players.

    Leafs are going to be playing in the postseason this year. Book it.

  • STAN

    leafdreamer-I agreed with you only because I would like to see them make post season.

    After the all star break the teams looking to move on will tighten up and I don’t think the Leaf roster as it stands right now is capable of playing much better than they are right now.Anyway it will be interesting to see what takes place between now and the trade deadline.