Only games provide answers.
But the main questions that will revolve around the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2022-23 season and formation are readily available for discussion, even as we wait an extra week to start training camp.
Here’s a quick look at the storylines for the big picture set to unfold during winter—and maybe just—in the depths of spring.
Will the double gamble on goalkeeper pay off?
Press conference poet (and former Leafs coach) Paul Morris once wondered if the NHL had gotten the middle letter right. Perhaps the highest hockey rink was supposed to be called the NGL – National Goaltending League.
Because this last line of defense has such a disproportionate effect on who gets silver and who gets fired.
To point out the intelligence: In 2021-22, only four of the 16 playoff hockey teams qualified for the tournament with below-average savings percentage (Minnesota, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Washington). None of them lived to see the second round.
Today, with the Maple Leafs losing their first two division business over two seasons, all eyes are focused on their hopeful replacements, both of whom have a lot to prove. And this must be done under the microscope that burns with criticism.
Of the 61 NHL goalkeepers who made at least 20 games last season, injury-hit Matt Murray ranked 36th in savings percentage (906) with the Ottawa Senators. New backup Ilya Samsonov ranked 25th with a score of 0.911 with Washington Capitals. Their previous clubs had no interest in keeping them around.
Not-so-fun fact: Jack Campbell (now Edmonton Oiler) had more NHL wins last season (31) than Murray and Samsonoff combined (28).
Thus, the new tandem redemption becomes GM’s big bet Kyle Dupas.
We’re not saying that high-goal Maple Leafs need elites to succeed. Toronto scores in groups and defends better than you think.
We’re saying that they at least need a healthy, reliable man in pads – either one – to save one more than his opponent at the other end.
Maple leaves are really good…but are they really better? (And is it important?)
While another bout of first-round grief overshadows the truth, the 2021-22 season marks the greatest regular season in Maple Leafs history.
The final tally for Toronto’s 82 most popular games: 54 wins, 115 points, goal difference plus 62 goals, most played in hockey, and 13 players who have scored a career-high in points.
Entering the year 21, Dubbas correctly declared the list to be the best version he had compiled during his tenure.
Unfortunately, that assessment may still hold true for now.
While the defensive arm remains essentially unchanged (see you, Ilya Lyubushkin), it is doubtful whether the perceived losses in the nets (Campbell) and in front (Ilya Mikheev, Ondrej Kasei, Jason Spiza) were upgraded with the arrival of Murray, Samsonov, Calle Järnkrok, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel, and Adam Gaudette.
We’re not sure the Leafs will score the most goals last season (315), but with Florida, Tampa Bay and Boston expected to hold back a bit, they may not need to.
Coach Sheldon Keefe has focused heavily on winning the Atlantic League and securing home ice in the spring.
Sadly, outgrowing Tampa in the winter doesn’t guarantee that you’ll do so by thawing.
Where the maple leaves fit and end in what should be a file Less lopsided split It will be a discussion. But it will be moot if the core can’t make it in April.
How hot are those seats?
The historic 2021-22 show kicked off in a pit. to remember?
Maple Leaves were battered, respectively, by sharks, penguins, and hurricanes last October, and job insecurity was in the air — fair or not.
With President Brendan Shanahan remaining loyal to Dubas and Dubas sticking to his starting coach and core, after the sixth consecutive season for this group, is the management job on the line?
“I think it’s a fair question. I feel like it’s on the line every year, and I get judged at the end of every season. I don’t necessarily feel like there’s more pressure; I think it’s very important for me personally to help the organization,” Dubas said this summer. Every day I get up trying to do everything I can to help our organization, and obviously the end goal is to be successful when it matters – in the playoffs.
“As much as we just want to go fast along the way, if we skip all these steps, we will fall short. So, I totally understand the question, but I don’t approach it any differently. I put a lot of pressure on myself to help the people who hired me and the people I work with.” .and that will never change.”
The Leafs cannot win in October.
If they start smoothly, it’s going to be, “Okay, cool. Wait until the playoffs.”
If they falter, panic could spread well before Match 7, and Daniel Craig wouldn’t be the only one touting knives.
What head color should Matthew Kniss choose?
Assistant General Manager Brendon Bridham’s balance sheet can benefit from the heft of the balance sheet from meaningful contributions through local young players still working on their entry or exit contracts.
Is this winter left winger Nick Robertson making a permanent leap for the big club and penalizing a few NHL goalkeepers with his vicious shot? Can Timothy Lillegren and/or Rasmus Sanden not only continue their promising trajectory, but battle it out for the first four minutes in the back end?
Or is Leaf Nation gradually building all of its expectations for the University of Minnesota Gopher season finale and setting its grandiose expectations on new hope Matthew Kniss, who aims to List promotion Heading into the post season.
Will they win a great playoff round?
In truth, there is only one question that needs to be answered.
Yes, we’ll distract ourselves with fourth-line competition and winger John Tavares discussions over the winter. Certainly, an outside discussion will revolve around how much deals Michael Banting and David Kampf will lead over their future contracts.
However, the one thing that is important cannot be treated for months.
Let’s recycle these words for Maple Leafs, from John Cooper.
“I see the hockey team as hell,” the Lightning coach said, before extending the ban’s futility of the elimination match in Toronto to 18 years. “They were the hell of a hockey team that had some bad breaks in the spring. And it looks like they, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten over the hump yet. But they have a team that can definitely.”
Yes, they can.
But will they?
7 additional questions: Will Auston Matthews beat Richard’s Cup champion Maurice “Rocket”? …Can Mitch Marner snatch his 100-point campaign? …Will Keefe try to reunite Marner with Tavares? …who flashes first in the face of Rasmus Sanden’s contract? …Are Justin Hall and Alexander Kervut skating on their current contracts in Toronto? … lead to a place on the list?