Confidence checks on the Maple Leafs at 15 game mark of the season

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
7 months ago
Whether it is American Thanksgiving, the 20 game mark, or the quarter season mark that you view as the benchmark for when it is okay to start drawing conclusions about how teams have been so far, all are fast approaching. American Thanksgiving will see the Leafs at the 17 game mark and in an absolute worst case scenario the Leafs would be above .500 from a points percentage perspective even if not on actual wins and losses. The 20 game mark is achieved on November 28th against the Panthers, and the quarter season mark the following game on November 30th against the Kraken.
This season has provided us with a little break in advance of those usual schedule markers so we are going a tad early with our confidence check question. I’ve asked some of the TLN writers to weigh-in on the following:
 How are you feeling about the Maple Leafs and is this a team that can have serious contender aspirations as is or what needs to change? It’s the 15 game mark confidence check time, and here are the responses:

Shane Seney:

My confidence is still hovering around the middle of the scale after the first 15. It’s been great to see the core of the team producing the way they are and with that, comes a chance to win any given night.  The third line of Domi, Robertson and Jarnkrok give me some hope that some secondary scoring will eventually be a consistent site. Defensively is where all the questions go to die. At times the Leafs are a nightmare and unfortunately some untimely injuries and unmet expectations are faulting the backend problems.  There’s no doubt Treliving needs to address this, and he will which is why the confidence in this team going deep isn’t lost just yet.  Woll and Sammy will be fine, and both goalies will figure it out, they’re too skilled not too.

James Reeve:

I think with the offensive unit they have, the Leafs can certainly still contend but everyone is going to have to figure things out to truly be considered. New additions have not been impressive thus far and news to really build chemistry and hit a purple patch to launch the team forward. The team can’t afford to squander yet another year of the Core 4 and come up empty handed. Defence is where the real struggles lie, though. Klingberg is just not the solution and is becoming more of the problem in their own end. The same can be said of Reaves on offence. He just doesn’t bring enough to the table to justify his place in the lineup. If things can be moved around with those two, I think it’s something that needs to happen to really keep the team heading in the right direction.

Michael Mazzei:

The Leafs have a decent team that is still trying to figure things out and needs to find the right combination before they can be considered a legitimate threat. They certainly have the offensive talent to not only give them a chance to win and remain competitive, but the right lineups have yet to be fully fleshed out given how much juggling Keefe has done to begin the season. The defence is a work in progress and it is clear that it cannot continue as currently constructed given they are in the market for blueliners. Goaltending is also a bit of a question mark in regard to whether Woll is ready to be the full time starter and if Samsonov can find his game again after a slow start to the year. All of which is to say, there is a lot of uncertainty with the Leafs so far this season and we won’t have concrete answers for quite some time on whether this is a true contender.

Jon Steitzer:

I didn’t come into this season believing in the Leafs not because I think that John Klingberg was a terrible signing or Ryan Reaves for that matter, or that the need for players like Bertuzzi and Domi were overstated and prevented the organization from addressing what their priorities should have been, which were and still are a third line centre you can trust in all situations and play up into the top six as needed and a defenceman that isn’t someone you hope could work in the top four, but instead someone who is truly a top defenceman in the league.
No, those things would have been nice, but my confidence is low because I simply don’t buy into the fact that Sheldon Keefe will take this team anywhere. He’s not a bad coach but not a great one and when you look at the list of recent cup winning coaches, it feels like it was only Craig Berube who truly fell ass backwards into a cup championship. The rest of the coaches had something to offer.
The first 15 games haven’t made me more confident in Sheldon Keefe, his lines in training camp and to start the season never sat right with me and I suspect many of you as well. He still seems lost with what to do with players like Knies and Bertuzzi who have something to add physically within their top six roles and while the bottom six centre situation seemed as clear as day by mid-August, it took Sheldon Keefe until November to figure it out. The fact that the Leafs are still a Jekyll and Hyde team when it comes to playing with and without the puck makes me lack confidence that proper team defence can be achieved on Keefe’s watch.
I’d say I’m confident this team can have a great regular season again but when it comes to the playoffs my confidence remains low and I don’t think any number of changes to the on-ice personnel get me to believe in the group as a whole.
Now that you’ve heard from some of us, we’d love to get your thoughts on how confident you are in the Leafs so far. Drop your thoughts in the comment section. 

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