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Assessing the roster and making predictions (The final part of our Leafs reader poll)

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Photo credit:Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
2 months ago
As I mentioned when we started sharing the results from the poll, I am greatly appreciative of the level of participation we received from our readers on this. I’m hoping that we can have a bit more back and forth like this in the future and begin establishing a bit of a sense of community around this site. Look for us to revisit mailbags as part of that throughout the season, as well as us firing you some questions on social media as well. Perhaps a midseason pulse poll will make some sense or given that its all about the playoffs, we’ll check back on how confident everyone is feeling post trade deadline too.
As for now, this last bit focuses largely on the players as well as some predictions for the upcoming year. As you may remember from yesterday’s post, reliable goaltending is the biggest need for the Leafs, so let’s start by talking about that position.
There are a few ways of slicing this data depending on how you want to feel. 60% said goaltending is the same or better. 53% said it was the same or worse. Or 48% thinks there was no change or it is impossible to know if there was a change at this point. I like to believe goaltending remains as voodoo as ever, but while I can appreciate that there are Jack Campbell fans out there, I don’t think there are too many Leafs fans that will be missing Petr Mrazek. There is also the fact that Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek at $8.8M would have been a tough pill to swallow and some change was required. Now, Jack Campbell and Ilya Samsonov at $6.8M might have been a fine compromise to many and that also points to the ongoing frustration with this position. The X-factor is probably Curtis Sanford as the new goaltending coach at this point.
We provided you with some room for cheekiness on this one, and I’m not sure if the Kallgren and Woll responses are part of that cheekiness. I also held the door open for some kind of Michael Hutchinson return, but no one even wanted to joke about that and no one selected it.
Honestly this is close to how I see the starts shaking out percentage wise, and we’ll assume the shooter tutor/mystery box/ David Ayres percentage points are the margin of error.
I’d also imagine that playoff pedigree will factor into Murray getting more starts towards the end of the season (assuming he’s healthy.)
On that note, let’s look at some of skaters…

87% said Mitch Marner will hit 100 points this year

Honestly, yeah, he can do this. He would have done this if he was healthier last season. It’s not a reach. It’s not like some of the expectations we’re seeing for Matthews below…
Just a friendly reminder that only four players have hit the 60 goal mark in the 2000s, the 44% that are looking for a leap production wise might be a tad optimistic, and even if Matthews is healthier, his wrist is in the best shape of its life, and Marner is force feeding him pucks from day one, repeating at 60 goals is huge and not even something that Alexander Ovechkin has accomplished in his career. The median sees him repeating, I say be happy with 50 and the rest is gravy.
As for Morgan Rielly, with his new contract and his offensive driven style of play I thought it would be interesting to see how Leafs fans presently assess him. The fact that 44% of those surveyed said he is the Leafs best defenseman bodes well for the fact that he’s been re-signed with a raise. There weren’t a ton of options here, but given the question was fully phrased “FIrst and foremost Morgan Rielly is…” the fact that defensive liability only received 5% of the total is a sign there is respect for Rielly and all those concerns about physicality can be addressed elsewhere.
Given that there has always been plenty of consideration given to Rielly as a potential captain candidate it is interesting to see he was third on this list. What is even more interesting is that the current captain is a very distant second here and it seems like with the next Matthews contract there could be a captaincy in his future as well. At least if fans have their way.

41% said Nick Robertson would play 50 games for the Leafs this year

Closing out our player focused questions we see that not many people are seeing the Leafs rookie as a full time Leaf this year or think injuries will once again factor in. Nick Robertson being ready and able to go on day one would be fantastic as a bargain player for the middle six would be terrific, but there are unquestionably still things like play away from the puck and scoring at the NHL level that need to be sorted out before Robertson inspires confidence.
Now onto some team predictions…

50% said the Leafs win the Atlantic

The Lightning had to give up McDonagh and Palat. The Panthers are a radically different team. The Bruins are not who they once were. While I’m not ready to be part of the optimistic 50% here, I don’t think they are out to lunch about the possibility.

37% said the Senators are a playoff team

This could be a combination of other teams taking a step back or some believing that the Senators really did take a step forward this offseason (I mean they did, but I’d argue it wasn’t this much), but the majority of our respondents don’t think they did enough to make the playoffs. I’d have to agree that the improved Sens just aren’t improved enough.
Let’s lose the 1% troll factor off the hop, and consider that not only are 78% seeing the Leafs moving past the first round, but 61% see the Conference Finals or beyond as where the Leafs are headed. Optimism? In this economy?
The Leafs are good enough on paper that 24% can believe the Leafs are a Cup Finals calibre team without significant ridicule, but hoooooooo doggy it requires a pretty messy divorce from this team’s history to think that is happening this year. Kudos for believing though.
Finally, if not the Leafs, who wins it all? Over 50% of the respondents think it will be one of the two recent champions, and another 25% thinks the cup is coming to Alberta. Beyond that only the Canes, Panthers, and Rangers got some serious consideration.
I’m going to take one last opportunity to thank everyone who participated in this year’s poll. Let us know your thoughts on the results in the comments below.
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