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2023-24 Maple Leafs Predictions: Jake McCabe sets career highs in ice time, points, hits & blocks

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Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Shane Seney
7 months ago
Welcome back to another feature of 2023-24 Maple Leafs predictions. This time around we’ll be turning our attention to veteran defenceman Jake McCabe. The 29-year-old looks to build off his time spent in Toronto last season and turn his first full season in blue and white into the best year of his career.
McCabe is on the Maple Leafs’ books for only $2 million against the salary cap, thanks to some fine work by former general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas. While Brad Treliving had some serious work to do to navigate his first offseason as the Leafs GM, he was basically ‘given a layup’ with McCabe because of the fact he’s so cheap against the team’s cap.
In order to know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been. McCabe appeared in 21 regular season games for Maple Leafs and 11 more in the playoffs. He posted one goal and five points in the regular season and chipped in with two assists in the playoffs. This coming after he added 20 points in 55 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Wisconsin native isn’t known for his offense, and two stats you need to pay attention to in order to understand McCabe’s impact are blocked shots and hits. Last season combined between the Blackhawks and the Leafs, the d-man posted 163 hits and 151 blocked shots.
When it comes to his career highs, McCabe played 20:42 a night with the Buffalo Sabres in 2016-17 and has career highs of 166 hits and 167 blocked shots from two years ago in Chicago.
Prediction: McCabe sets career highs in points, ice time, blocks & hits. 
One thing the Leafs’ blue liner has working in his favour is the fact he’s expected to play top-four minutes for head coach Sheldon Keefe. McCabe saw an average of 19:28 of ice time per game with the Leafs last year and with some more time expected as a penalty killer in 2023-24, his ice time should take him close to 21 minutes a game.
While Keefe hasn’t confirmed any lineup-related affairs, it’s probably safe to assume McCabe will be paired with John Klingberg to start this season. Klingberg is not known for his defensive game and will be relying on McCabe to be a stay-at-home partner and someone who can bail him out from time to time. Think Justin Holl, but with a ton more offensive creativity and finish.
McCabe is going to get nice and comfortable as a Leaf and find his groove on this team. With the likes of Max Domi, Ryan Reaves and Tyler Bertuzzi now on their side, Leafs games are going to be much more intense and you’ll see other players get pulled into the battle. McCabe will be one, that’s for sure.
His career high in points is technically last season if you combine his time with both Chicago and Toronto. 25 points in 76 games is matchable and frankly he could max out at 30-35 with Klingberg as his partner as the Swedish d-man loves to join the rush and try to spark the offense. Maybe McCabe hits on a few more secondary assists by feeding Klingberg the puck to get out of the zone.
The Maple Leafs defence will be an x-factor for this season, there’s no doubt about that. Toronto won’t have any issues scoring goals and with Ilya Samsonov expected to carry the load in net, the blue line continues to hold a ton of question marks.
McCabe can be a big player in bringing some stability and some jam to the Leafs blue line. He’s the only blue-liner on the buds who loves to throw his weight around and muck it up in the dirty areas of the ice, and the hope is he’ll continue playing this style and elevate his game this season. The Maple Leafs will need a lot out of McCabe and if he has a career season in 2023-24, it could mean bigger and better things are coming in Toronto during the defenceman’s second season as a Leaf.

More 2023-24 Maple Leafs Predictions:

Auston Matthews
John Klingberg
Ilya Samsonov
Tyler Bertuzzi
John Tavares
Timothy Liljegren
Max Domi
William Nylander

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