There’s a good possibility that Kyle Dubas has a sense humour and thought that bringing back Michael Hutchinson the day before Halloween would scare Leafs fans. I think it did, only when we realized that when there’s three NHL goaltenders between him and the net that there was nothing to be afraid of.
Though that doesn’t mean there aren’t other frightening things about the Leafs at the moment, so we asked our panel of experts to share what scares them about the Leafs.
The Leafs roster was decidedly not scary last season and while they’ve addressed that to some extent with additions like Wayne Simmonds and Zack Bogosian, I’m still still concerned about how much of that “dog” mentality can be developed by the core of this team. Having those guys will certainly add an element that this team was missing but it will be all for naught if the big guns can’t become tougher to play against as well. That doesn’t mean Nylander and Marner have to fight or throw big hits, but it does mean they need to have some more push back when teams lean on them or the game isn’t going their way. This Leafs team was easily deflated all too often last season and two depth players like Simmonds and Bogosian won’t be able to change that by themselves.
Goaltending. As much as I love goalies, and I love OUR goalies, I don’t know that I yet have the utmost confidence in any of them. Jack Campbell is still a bit untested, Freddie is SO inconsistent, Aaron Dell is a brand new entity and Michael Hutchinson is Michael Hutchinson. To me, our goaltending wins and loses us games and the losing piece of that was far too often last season.
The thing that might scare me the most is the bottom six depth this year. While I think there are lots of solid pieces in Vesey, Kerfoot, Simmonds, Thornton, Spezza, Engvall, Robertson, Anderson, and more, none of them aside from Kerfoot have as high of a ceiling as Kapanen or Johnsson. While I wouldn’t say the team is desperately missing them, the rest of the bottom six is going to have to step up to replace the offense they provided (referring more to 2018-19 than last season when they had poor luck/injuries. I think they can probably replace it by committee, or maybe one or two of them step up big and it’s not a concern, but for now, it’s what scares me the most going into the next season
Whether or not this team has matured enough.
I do like the moves Dubas made this offseason to reshape the team. My biggest question is can this team finally get over that hump? Can they finally shake the jekyll and hyde approach to their games? Can they finally all commit to playing TEAM defense and not just throw Freddy to the wolves? Can they finally get past the first round of the playoffs?
This is the second straight offseason where Dubas has bailed out the players for under-performing. It’s time to put up or shut-up and after years and years of clinging to optimism and hope only to be let down, I’m a little skeptical right now if the players can finally do it, but consider this the final chance this core has to show they can.
What scares me the most is my own optimism. I feel so strongly that each and every signing and trade will work out for their benefit. It seems so obvious that they’ve improved dramatically since last year, what with adding Simmonds, Thornton, Vesey and others to round out this team’s elite top forwards with cheap effective depth. They also took massive steps forward on defense by replacing Barrie and Ceci with Brodie and Bogosian. I’m so excited and that TERRIFIES me. It’s only a question of “how will they [email protected]&# it up this time?” but it’s certainly haunting me.
Nothing scares me more than the expectations heading into the season. I have no doubt that the Leafs did well this offseason and made mostly solid moves in an attempt to improve the team overall. Having said that, I’m worried a lot of the fanbase are going to place too much confidence in the group in that they believe it has the pieces needed to win a Stanley Cup. The team is good enough to compete for the playoffs as the past four years have indicated and they haven’t shown any signs of serious regression (apart from the latter half of the 2019-20 season before the shutdown) , but the team has to advance past the first round before they earn the trust from the fanbase. With the acquisitions of Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, and Zach Bogosian among others, I fear they will hype up the team too much and will repeat the cycle of another letdown by the time the playoffs are finished.
What scares me most about about this season is my optimism. Yes, I’ve had this same feeling going into the last few seasons but this one is different. The team feels more complete, tougher to play against, and just older. I’m scared because I don’t want to be heartbroken for, what feels like, the millionth time. I am scared of being heartbroken. By a hockey team. Yes, you heard that right. But I mean Christmas is right around the corner so maybe our present of the future will be something special. Who knows. Just no heartbreaks, please.
Will the various pieces of this Maple Leafs puzzle fit together?
That’s the question running through my head right now. Dubas has made so many great additions, signed folks at great cost, and kept the core intact. I just wonder if this will finally be it. Is this the team that would finally do it? Don’t get me wrong I’m super excited for this team! They look AMAZING on paper. I just don’t want to get too excited and be even more disappointed.
I’m gonna start sending positive vibes their way from now so they have a reservoir of good vibes to pull from when needed. hahaha
I feel like I’m going to be unpopular with this one, but Sheldon Keefe. I really believe in the skill of the Leafs core forwards. I believe Andersen and Campbell are an above average combination and Aaron Dell will push them over the top. I think Rielly, Muzzin, Brodie is a very solid start of a defensive group, and Lehtonen, Holl, and Dermott are a very good bottom three. This team also has depth across the board and there will be competition to come into the lineup and stay there. I like the team that’s been built.
That leaves Sheldon Keefe as the critical piece for me. I just haven’t seen enough of him to be a believer. He’s won at every level he’s been at, sure, but I still feel the NHL is an entirely different beast, and he’s an unknown. I know what Bruce Boudreau does and I like it. Sheldon Keefe is an unknown and there’s nothing scarier than the unknown.
Maybe that’s leaving a Halloween post as too much of a downer. What I meant to say is that what scares me the most is the vaccine might not be available before the Leafs Stanley Cup parade. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!