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TLN Maple Leafs predictions and confidence check (Part 2)

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Jon Steitzer
8 months ago
Yesterday we started our look at what the TLN contributors expect from the Leafs this season. If you want to go back and give us another click on that, by all means click away. If you are looking to forge on ahead with our best guesses around the 2023-24 Maple Leafs, let’s dive right in with a few confidence checks.

How confident are you in the Leafs forwards? (1-10 scale)

It’s safe to say the TLN group is very confident in the Leafs forwards as the range was 8-10 in the responses with an average response of 9.
Why wouldn’t we be confident in a group that has Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, and…Ryan Reaves. Okay, I’m joking on the last one. The five minutes of Reaves a night isn’t going to make or break the Maple Leafs and the understandable excitement about rookies like Knies and Minten, players like Bertuzzi and Domi who seem a lot more exciting than Kerfoot and Engvall, and the promising mystery box that is Noah Gregor make for a group that even a cynic like me can’t score particularly low.

How confident are you in the Leafs defence? (1-10 scale)

Here’s where things start getting a bit grim. The range of responses here is 4-6. If you’ll recall from yesterday’s post a number of the Leafs defencemen were selected as potential biggest disappointments with Brodie, Klingberg, and Giordano all getting name checked. Morgan Rielly is what he is but that definitely isn’t a defensive hockey player, McCabe still needs to establish himself, and it’s certainly valid to not know what to expect from Liljegren this year either. The average score here was 5.2, a far cry from the 9 the forwards scored. If there is an argument for the need for team defence it’s probably that, but we can also expect some high event hockey again this season.

How confident are you in the Leafs goaltending? (1-10 scale)

Splitting the difference between the forwards and the defence are the Leafs goaltenders. They slide in with scores in the 6-8 range with an average score of 7.1.
Ilya Samsonov in the playoffs certainly casts some doubt over whether he can be a .920 save percentage goaltender indefinitely. And Joseph Woll is still on the inexperienced side and encouraging numbers to date still aren’t enough to earn him the goaltender of the future label. Throw in the fact that both goaltenders have a difficult time even getting to the 40 games in a season mark and the Plan C for the team is Martin Jones and it’s okay to not be overly confident in the goaltenders even if both have had their moments of brilliance.

How confident are you in the Leafs coaching? (1-10 scale)

Like the goaltenders the coaches came in on the 6-8 scale, but with a lower average of 6.67.
There are some interesting choices that have been made here and I won’t speak to the reasoning of the other voters, but rather just my own. I really like Dean Chynoweth as a coach, so moving him away from the defensive coach role is a bit of a surprise to me. Guy Boucher is an interesting addition but he’s not the guy I’d imagine for running the powerplay. He’s a heavy systems guy though and that could be the reasoning there. Mike Van Ryn is a very promising coach and I’m excited about his addition even if I feel Chynoweth is better as the defensive coach. I’d say the assistants elevated my score to a 6 because I don’t have much confidence in Sheldon Keefe as a coach. Let’s generously call him a league average coach and for the position the Leafs are in it would be nice to see them with the best of the best, considering they can afford it.

How confident are you in Brendan Shanahan and Brad Treliving? (1-10 scale)

Our group really liked the 6-8 range, and somehow this duo split the difference between the goaltenders and coaches for average coming in at 6.8.
Brad Treliving earned himself some points with the additions of Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and Noah Gregor. While I don’t think Bertuzzi and Domi are absolute locks for big years in Toronto the fact they are on one year deals make them worthwhile risks and an understandable new direction after the departures of Bunting and Kerfoot.
Treliving took a hit though with a three year deal for Ryan Reaves and the signing of John Klingberg. There also don’t seem to be any bargains coming the Leafs way and that isn’t going to earn him a lot of points. He’s new in the role but after another frustrating May the fact that there wasn’t a particularly bold change of direction isn’t going to sit well with people and there doesn’t seem to be a clear vision like Kyle Dubas had.
As for Brendan Shanahan, he picked up a lot of warts with the handling of the Kyle Dubas situation and his fingerprints can now be seen on some of the less popular Leafs decisions of the past few years. It also seems that he is a big part of the Leafs reluctance to go in a new direction completely and that sits with him more than Treliving.

How confident are you in the Leafs depth? (1-10 scale)

We’ll finish on a slightly more positive note as the Leafs depth range was exclusively in the 7-8 range with an average of 7.5 (a nice even split between the two scores.)
With Gambrell, Jones, Lagesson, Lajoie, Benoit all making it safely down to the Marlies the Leafs have some NHL capable depth handy. Throw in some upside options like Pontus Holmberg, Nick Robertson, and Mikko Kokkonen, and a hopefully healthy at some point Conor Timmins and the Leafs aren’t in a bad place. The only criticism will come when you look at how the Leafs approach an injury to Matthews or Tavares and that Nick Robertson is the only potential offensive breakout star option waiting in the wings even if Alex Steeves and Nick Abruzzese could at least add a bit of an offensive spark as well in a depth capacity.
The good news is that depth is easy to improve and it likely will be by the time the trade deadline rolls around, but as far as regular season depth goes, the Leafs are in a fairly positive place.

Changing gears…Pick a hot(-ish) take

I asked the contributors to pick one of the following as the hot take that is most likely to come to fruition over the season
  • William Nylander is still playing centre at the end of the season
  • Joseph Woll will be the starter by the end of the year
  • Nick Robertson has earned a permanent spot on the roster by the end of the year
  • Max Domi has a point per game season
The top three options all had the same number of votes. No love was given to the idea of Max Domi being a point per game player.

How far do the Leafs make it this year?

By a defining margin the crew of TLN is predicting that the Leafs will make it to the Conference Finals this year. That makes us a pretty optimistic group, I guess as a top four finish is nothing to sneeze at. We did have one overly optimistic prediction of the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup and one Debbie Downer of the Leafs being out in the second round of the playoffs this year. All and all, no one is predicting the Leafs getting worse.

So who wins the Stanley Cup?

Carolina and Colorado tied in votes so I guess that is your cup final according to TLN. Given that it is usually the team with former Leafs that win it, I’ll break the tie give the edge to Michael Bunting lifting the cup in Carolina. As for the other votes, you already know someone picked the Leafs and based entirely on narrative and not talent of the roster, I selected the Pittsburgh Penguins as my Stanley Cup champions.

Finally, who wins the draft lottery?

If we are going to talk about who is the best, let’s also talk about who will be the worst and the San Jose Sharks were the runaway favourite here. Philadelphia (good selection) and Montreal also got some love here, but San Jose just looks like a really bad team. They could have probably used Noah Gregor.
Don’t forget to let us know your picks in the comments below.

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