Toronto Maple Leafs 2015 State of the Team


May 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs new head coach Mike Babcock is flanked by club president Brendan Shanahan (right) and board chairman Larry Tanenbaum during an introductory media conference at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The whole hockey world has to know that the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team in a state of flux. After Brendan Shanahan and the Leafs brass announced last Spring that the organization would shift into the mentality that encompasses a state of ‘rebuild’, one has to ask is this the real agenda in T.O.? Yes, the Leafs just traded away their prized superstar in Phil Kessel last week to the Penguins, but players like Tyler Bozak, Jonathan Bernier and Dion Phaneuf still remain part of the Blue & White despite trade rumours dating back to February. Below is my grade analysis in regards to the make-up of the Leafs as it stands right now.


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I questioned why the Leafs would bring in Mike Babcock and pay him the amount they did, effectively making him the highest paid NHL coach ever. Is he a good coach? He is a helluva coach. Babcock has one Stanley Cup to his name, as well as 11 postseason appearances in 12 seasons as a head coach. On top of that, he has achieved two Gold medals as the Canadian coach in the Olympics and a World Championship Gold to boot. The question is, how will he adjust to a team in the process of a ‘rebuild’ where winning is far from the goal? Brendan Shanahan announced that

the search for a permanent GM would be put on the back-burner

, which adds to the state of flux the team is currently in. The one thing I really think will be key is to track Mark Hunter’s, the Director of Player Personnel, continual relationship development with the Leafs first-round selection Mitch Mariner. They had an excellent relationship as player-coach with the London Knights, and I see no reason why this would falter going forward. Despite me personally not buying into the ‘rebuild’ phase in terms of the Leafs complete and entire capability to do so, they have heavily invested in the white-collar pieces going forward, so I’ll give them credit for that.

Grade: A-


I truly think the Leafs made two quality moves thus far in the offseason. Signing hometown forwards Shawn Matthias and Daniel Winnik allows the Leafs the versatility of knowing Babcock can deploy these two guys on virtual any line and get tough, two-way hockey as a result. I see both of these forwards’ TOI increasing next season, while I wouldn’t be surprised if they put up a combined 65-70 points between them. Kadri has been called out by Babcock in expectation that he is to perform at an elite level next season and going forward. At 24 years of age and just freshly signed to a bridge 1-year contract, this is a make-or-break season for the London Knight product. Personally, I don’t know what will make the hockey world deem Kadri elite, but it will have to be much more than a simple 50-point season, which he has only achieved once on his tenure with the Leafs. Tyler Bozak, James Van Reimsdyk and Joffrey Lupul should provide their normal output regardless of Kessel’s departure, but I am starting to tabulate the over/under for how many games Lupul will be able to suit up for (he has only played 234 games out of a potential 410 in the last 5 seasons, or 57%).

The defense was atrocious much of last season allowing an average of 3.13 GA per game (5th most in NHL), and going forward into the 2015-2016 season I do not see this changing for the better to a great degree. Unless the team decides to offer Cody Franson a contract to come back, the Leafs will direly miss the young defenseman as he accounted for 32 points last season, the most amongst defensemen on the team. Phaneuf has not been shipped out of town yet, but it will be up to the youth in Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly to hold down the fort to a greater degree come October.

Jonathan Bernier versus James Reimer has been a great debate amongst Leafs Nation now for numerous seasons. Many thought Bernier was on his way out after a controversial tweet emerged last month, but he is still on the team regardless. I do believe in a little competition in camp to drive a player, but after a poor 21-28-7 season, could Reimer get another legitimate shot to prove he can take the reins? It wouldn’t surprise me as Reimer sits currently as a RFA, while Bernier is a UFA after this upcoming season.

Grade: C+


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This time last year it seems as if William Nylander was the only prospect of any high value the Leafs had; well how things have changed. In addition to Mitch Mariner, the speedy and crafty N0. 4 overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, there are two other players that are now aboard thanks to two separate trades. Brendan Leipsic was acquired as part of the Cody Franson trade with Nashville and acted as sort of a catalyst last season for the Leafs AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies as they made a playoff push. He ended up finishing the regular season with  54 points in 74 games between time with the Milwaukee Admirals and Marlies. Kasperi Kapanen landed in the Leafs organization via the fresh trade with the Penguins that sent Kessel packing. Kapanen, much like Mariner and Nylander, is on the smaller side by NHL standards, but excels when it comes to speed and reading the play on offense. While Nylander has

expressed interest in staying with the Marlies

playing center on the top line, he could very well be called up along with any of the other mentioned prospects to test their chops in the big league. Connor Brown and Fredrick Gautheir are two other names you will undoubtedly be hearing more about sooner rather than later.

Grade: B+

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