So yesterday you read the post about how the Maple Leafs won’t make the playoffs. Today, I am here to tell you why they will make it. A slam dunk? Hell no. However I think the pieces are in place to get this team to the MLSE payday. Here is why:
First and foremost, the Dream Tream. Burke and his disciples have been at this for long enough in their current roles. This is Burke’s team now and he and the rest of his management team will find a way. These guys know what they are doing, they know what they have and they know how to acquire what they need. The Leafs actually have a hockey department which they haven’t since, well since EVER. Does this mean a cup? No, no cup, but it does mean there should be results.
Next there is accountability and attitude. The Mats Sundin/Tie Domi country club appears to be closed. Wilson and Burke will not allow the players to hide anymore. Losing doesn’t appear to be acceptable anymore.
The additions to the lineups are obvious. Did they add the best players in the league? Maybe not. However the Leafs now have something they haven’t had in years, depth. Their defence from top to bottom should be amongst the best in the league. Consider Luke Schenn. Where does he fit in? There are bodies ahead of him who are going to be getting a lot more ice time than him this season simply because of depth. Up front there are more character players who will help create the type of style Burke want’s his team to play. The younger guys like Stalberg will be fun to watch and he has surrounded them with quality people who play the game the right way.
Goaltending, the coach can’t play, but hopefully he can help those who do. Toskala is in put up or shut up mode. Either he is a number one goalie or he isn’t. If he returns to form from 2 years ago, the Leafs will be in great shape. The Monster seems to have the tools to be a much more reliable backup then Cujo. With the defensive core around them, playing net should be a little bit easier than last year. Now they maybe killing more penalties than in years past, however I think their goaltending will be much improved.
The number one reason the Leafs will make the playoffs is in the numbers. Eight teams make the playoffs. The Leafs finished 12th. 4 teams finished ahead of them. Who makes up the top 8? Well, Pittsburgh and Washington appear to be the closest things to locks. Boston and Philadelphia round out the top 4. New Jersey always seems to make the playoffs and so far there is no reason that I can see that this changes this year. Carolina did well under Mo towards the end of last year so they too will be in the running. So there you have your top 6. That leaves 2 playoff spots left and the pack to fight for them. I refuse to think that the Isles will be all that much better this year. Tampa and Atlanta are crap shoots at best. I am willing to go out on a limb that the Leafs will have at least an equal season to last year. I find it hard to fathom that the three teams who finished behind them will improve enough to pass them. Ottawa traded away Heatley. How much of a cancer was he in the room? Will there be a positive effect or a negative one in having him in San Jose. I am thinking they continue their decline. I am not sure there is team in the league that I am less impressed with their off season than Buffalo. I think Buffalo nose dives this off season. I am not thrilled with the moves the Panthers made either, I don’t see them making the playoffs again this season. Jay Bo was a horse and they haven’t replaced him. That leaves Montreal and the Rangers. I don’t like the moves the Habs made this off season at all. I think they are going to have a tough time getting back to last seasons mark. The Rangers on the other hand should be able to hold ground. I think they did just enough to remain in the hunt.
So as we get closer to the deadline I think Burke will be able to add the pieces needed to get the team to the money making round. I think the addition of Kessel will be a huge moral booster for the Maple Leafs. The pieces may not be there now, but I think they will be. I think there are enough quality guys on the pharm to push those on the big club that they will keep the team moving forward. A lock? No. A team that is interesting as hell to watch this season? For sure. Intriguing will be the word I think we use a lot to talk about the Leafs.