MLHS Bloggers Predict the Leafs’ finish

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It’s a great day, Leafs Nation. Let’s hear your predictions for the season. Here are ours:

Note: Only Ian Dudgeon and Declan Kerin had the Leafs in the playoffs last season, so feel free to skip over everyone else’s prediction.

Ian Dudgeon (@Dudgee):

Prediction: 2nd in Atlantic, 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

Sure, call me the optimist. I usually am. Despite a strong undercurrent of gloom and doom voices preaching the impending disaster of a season, I’m seeing the opposite. I see a team that is headed towards its collective prime, with key young players a little older and hopefully a little wiser than last year. This is a group that now has a playoff round under its belt, nearly slayed the giant (Boston) that has beat up on them for years, and picked up a ton of playoff experience in the off season in Bolland, Clarkson and Raymond. Phil Kessel has emerged as a bona fide star (dare I say.. elite??!!) forward who shut the naysayers up with his performance in the playoffs. The overall quality and depth on the wings has improved, including the prospects such as Leivo and Ashton pushing hard for NHL jobs and likely will be seen when injuries open up spots. Adding Bernier bulks up the goaltending to a solid 1-2 punch. And hey, if he can beat out Reimer for the starting job, he’s going to show he’s a pretty damned good goalie to make that happen. It will be a credit to both goalies. The defense remains a risk when they don’t have the puck, but the talents and assets are there. If Carlyle can continue to mold the group, they can hold their own. With Rielly staying for now, the group overall is ridiculously mobile, which will help a lot dealing with speedy teams like Detroit, and help skate circles around older clubs like Boston.

The Atlantic division could go a lot of ways this year. Detroit and Boston would seem to be the teams to beat, but both clubs have chinks in the armor of their contending status. Both have key players getting older, plus defensive groups that aren’t quite what they once were. I think Toronto finishes 2nd behind one of those clubs. IMO, Montreal played way above their short little selves last year, as did Ottawa. Florida and Buffalo will likely be doormats, and Tampa to me is the one wild card.

Bottom line: the door is wide open for the Leafs to take the next big step forward.

***

Nikhil Daljeet

Prediction: 3rd in the Atlantic Division

Similar to my thoughts last year, I predict the Leafs will continue on their upswing as a young, maturing club and finish third in the newly crowned Atlantic Division.  They’ll finish just slightly below Detroit and barely ahead of Ottawa (who will grab one of the wildcard playoff berths).  I peg them at somewhere in the 95 point range, with the Boston Bruins taking the division with just over 100 points.  One of the biggest differences this year will be Toronto’s two reliable goaltenders, ensuring that slumps or injuries can be handled with ease in the crease.  The other?  A year more of maturity, growth and experience for one of the best young group of forwards in the league.  Their game-by-game drive and fortitude will be furthered by the presence and energy of Clarkson and Bolland.  This will be most important in the crunch of the late season rush for the playoffs, which has seen the young core of this team falter in the past.  The Leafs won’t quite reach “contender” status this year, but their trajectory is headed in that direction and they will remain one of the most lethal offensive teams in the league.

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Anthony Petrielli (@APetrielli):

Prediction: 8th in the Eastern Conference (2nd wildcard spot)

I think the Leafs will get excellent goaltending this year, and, as usual, they will score a ton of goals. Their defense needs to prove itself, but I’m actually pretty high on their back-end as well; I think a full year of Gunnarsson-Phaneuf will be solidifying, Gardiner will step up, Franson will prove he’s the real deal, and they just have too many NHL calibre rearguards in the organization to not be able to find two more to round out the unit.

Unfortunately, the Leafs are in possibly the best division in hockey. At the very least, they are in the division with the most elite teams. I have Boston, Detroit, and Ottawa finishing ahead of the Leafs, leaving Toronto to battle it out with the Habs for the final spot. My bigger concern is actually the crossover wildcard, because I think the Devils are going to surprise, and Philly along with the Islanders are legitimate contenders. That said, I’ll stick with the Leafs claiming the final wildcard playoff spot. I ultimately believe they have enough game breakers to push them through when it matters.

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Matt Mistele (@TOTruculent):

Prediction: 5th in the Eastern Conference

I think the Leafs will finish 5th. That seems high, to write it out loud. I think that’s just a byproduct of the playoff incident last spring re-calibrating our expectations to their usual miserable level. The Maple Leafs are an improved team, in a tougher division. It shakes out pretty similarly, in my mind.

They settled for the status quo at 1C, added key forwards who should deliver the long-sought grit element we’ve been sorely lacking up front (pun intended), they boast a mobile (if too-offensive) defense corps that could literally shake out any which way, their possession game should improve, and they boast – cumulatively – an amazing amount of talent and reliability in goal. It’s laughable, to me, that we continue to beat the narrative of a goaltending ‘controversy’ to death. If anything, this is a goaltending non-controversy. One of Reimer or Bernier should always be playing well, if not both, and that alone will account for the Leafs finishing higher than a great many will probably predict. Carter Ashton will score the first goal, Paul Ranger will take the first penalty, and every breath Phil Kessel takes will prompt immediate reactions from intermission panels as to how his latest lung capacity measurement might affect his upcoming contract demands.

Can’t finish worse than last year, can it?

***

Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike):

Prediction: 42 – 33 – 7 (91 points). Fourth in Atlantic Division, Seventh in Eastern Conference.

Buoyed by a fleet of scoring forwards and bolstered by the strongest net minding tandem in years, the Toronto Maple Leafs will sneak into the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk are all capable of 30-goal seasons. There’s another six forwards who could easily notch 20 goals apiece. The addition of Clarkson, Bolland and Ashton gives the team more snarl and two-way presence than in years past. Opposing teams are going to have nightmares about this top-10 offense.

The defense remains a concern, as the Leafs still seem poised to give up a lot of shots. But with Phaneuf, Gardiner, Ranger, Rielly and the recently signed Franson in the fold, the D corps might just score enough to offset any defensive inefficiency. Should the defenders prove porous; the Leafs can rely on Optimus Reim or Smokin Jon Bernier to shut the door.

I’d like to offer a caveat: don’t be shocked if the Buds start the season slowly; there are a lot of new faces at every position and the cap is playing havoc with the roster. With David Clarkson’s 10-game suspension, the Leafs offensive capability won’t be at its most deadly until November. Once all the pieces are in place, the Leafs will punch and score their way to the postseason in 2014.

***

Alec Brownscombe (@MapleLeafsHS):

Prediction: 3rd in Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference

The most interesting question that will get answered this season is whether or not the Leafs performance last season was a mirage or evidence of a team taking its first big step toward contention.

I don’t think the Leafs would have played at a 97-point pace last season if they played the schedule they have in front of them this season, both in terms of competition and number of games. However, the Leafs are, on paper, a better on team, and team that can hopefully win in a few different ways based on their roster makeup.

While Reimer may not post a sparkling .924 SV% under a bigger workload, the Leafs’ team save percentage could feasibly stay within a few points of where it was if we assume Bernier upgrades on Scrivens.

We also know the Leafs have at least the potential to ice a far better defence core than the one that featured Holzer, Hostka and/or O’Byrne at points throughout the season. Between some or all of Rielly, Ranger, Gardiner (full time) and Franson taking a step forward, perhaps the Leafs will have an easier time breaking out of their own zone this season and will spend more time in the other end of the rink, where the likes of Ashton, Clarkson and Bolland can hopefully aid in bolstering the cycle game; another thing needs to improve if the Leafs are to generate more offensive zone time.

We know the Leafs can score in bunches. The biggest concern for me is the defence’s ability to defend without the puck, as well as the concern based on last season, a trend which continued in the preseason, that the Leafs will continue to get outshot heavily. Hhopefully the Leafs can take a step toward not just counterattacking teams with speed and offensive prowess, but fairly consistently dictating games.

I’ll be very curious to find out just how successful the Leafs will be at this:

  • Biltmore

    Stanley Cup winners… only prediction I have.

  • Jantz

    Gotta be more specific than that. 101 points , 2 nd in the division.

  • Burtonboy

    No prediction from me other then they will be a lot better that many people think

  • lieffan

    Burtonboy If most people have them in the playoffs, you’re saying we are division champs good? Doubt it

  • ShotgunCharlie

    Prediction from me: I will be watching the game tonight, eating cheesies and watching porn afterwards.

  • lister

    Being cautiously optimistic of a better season and playoff run. (See Blue Jays)

  • ShotgunCharlie

    @lieffan Burtonboy it is still 8 teams from the east making it. They dont have to be division champs to make it. it will be a dog fight but there are 2 teams that will take the wildcard spots….I dont see why the Leafs cant at least be one of them.

  • KurtWhite

    Gilbey93 kid puts up numbers, gotta be a reason he is not considered a blue chip?

  • Komas Taberle

    3rd in the Atlantic, 5th in conference

  • KurtWhite

    leafs willl finish 5th in the conference

  • Edward_Flannery

    ShotgunCharlie careful you dont drink to much, you’ll wake up the next day thinking you have a terrible disease on your dick.

  • Snots

    So I was off by one day….

  • Cameron19

    7th or 8th in the Conference. Wild Card spot.

  • rustynail

    2nd in the conference you heard it here first

  • mcloki

    Here’s my prediction. This is the year of “Emergance.” Kessel will emerge as true goal scoring force. I can see 40-50 especially with a larger 5 hole. WE’ll see Bernier and Riems emerge as a great goalie tandem. Gardiner will merge as an exciting and sometimes frustrating defender. I expect 2 or three get you out of your chair rushes from GArdiner this year. I expect Kadri to emerge as a real force on the PP. LAst year was a warmup, now everyone will see this kids jump into the spotlight. I think it will emerge that we have a real tough team. OR and MAcL leading the way.  
    Sit back and enjoy it folks this is going t be a great yer filled with 82 great games and whatever playoff run we can muster.
    A more re-emergence that Emergance. A whole new generation of young Leaf fans will be back in the streets of Toronto. The Leafs will be a team that fathers can talk to their sons and daughters about.
    it’s a good time to be a Leaf fan.

  • quinnesq

    APetrielli Wrong. It’s going to narrowly miss going up. I blame Carlyle.

  • Uncle Otis

    Cameron19 
    I called them 7-8 last year…. and they are a much better team this time around
    2nd in Atlantic,3rd in conference
    Starts tonight!

  • MaxwellHowe

    Generally amon the bloggers there is a reasonable consensus.  Boring.  Someone should break out the stupid by picking the Leafs to win the Cup or pick first in the 2014 draft.  I am too much of a coward to attach my good name to either of those two scenarios.
    But I do believe the team is going to beat expectations.  I just look at the other teams in the conference and,aside from Ottawa, none of them have really improved at all.

  • Hope_Smoke

    APetrielli everyone has them making the post season. Interesting.

  • dlb eh

    Cameron19 
    as long as we get into the playoffs we’re a legit contender imo
    we’re not a thin or one-dimensional team. it’s a long season that will answer many questions, but the game breakers and character appears to be there in spades.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    MaxwellHowe We didn’t get together and make our predictions. We all submitted them individually.

  • Cameron19

    Uncle Otis Cameron19 Longer season though.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Anthony Petrielli Thats your problem. People only really get stupid in groups.  Proven fact.

  • dlb eh

    mcloki 
    the year of “they are what we thought they are”?

  • APetrielli

    Hope_Smoke I was surprised with that to be honest. I thought I’d be one of the few to actually have them in.

  • ShotgunCharlie

    Edward_Flannery ShotgunCharlie OD on porn!!  (orange d**k)

  • Anthony Petrielli

    MaxwellHowe Anthony Petrielli I can’t argue that.

  • Pent_House

    me and rusty had em in the play-offs last year

  • Burtonboy

    Pent_House If I remember I called them in 6th place last yr.

  • dlb eh

    i like how Bolland and Clarkson might match up with teams like BOS, and i like how Bolland and Raymond match up with teams like MTL.
    some teams have speedy little forwards who draw a lot of penalties.  we counter that with bigger skilled speedy guys who refs don’t typically pick on.
    or we use the same big strong and fast forwards against the slower and meaner teams.
    i think we match up well with good coaching.
    big question marks for me are: Gunnarsson, Gardiner and Ranger.  at least two of the three need to be as good as we hope.

  • FloorHockeyFlopper

    I wonder how RC wants to accomplish more possession?  Surely 4.2 as 1st C wouldn’t get that done. Can someone help me out here?   Would that not go against the whole style they’ve been coached?  Dump and pound, cycle and defensively, the quick boards pass outta our zone?   
    A good test would be vs Detroit, but we play them dec 21st – man i wanna beat those wings!! They just erk me.

  • Pent_House

    Burtonboy Pent_House Everyone thought we were nuts lol

  • Cameron19

    FloorHockeyFlopper He’s going to try and scare the other team into giving us the puck by dressing 6 Orr’s.

  • Leafs rule

    Burtonboy Pent_House So did I eh re 6th  and many a good beer was drank

  • Uncle Otis

    @APetrielli Hope_Smoke 
    Playoffs!? …some of us are dreaming Stanley
    This is the first in a looooong time that  I think they have a REALISTIC shot

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    I have a bet with one of my coworkers that Leafs make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs.  I have 4 chinki chicken dinners riding on this.

  • mcloki

    FloorHockeyFlopper Just the pickup of Clarkson and Bolland will give us more possession. It’s their style to cycle the puck.

  • Burtonboy

    Pent_House Burtonboy Yep so they did. I have a feeling they are going to surprise people again this yr too.. People are not taking into consideration just what effect that playoff series has

  • mcloki

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Try and get a 5th and bet them a 100 point season.

  • Dudgee

    APetrielli dang we suck!

  • dlb eh

    FloorHockeyFlopper
    simple how he contributes whether or not you see it is irrelevant to the coach
    4.2 wins the faceoff
    4.2 first in on the forecheck, forcing pucks towards waiting wingers and creating loose pucks
    4.2 passes pucks to 8.0
    4.2 back-checks and moves pucks up ice quickly, doesn’t hold on too long

  • FloorHockeyFlopper

    Cameron19 FloorHockeyFlopper lol  I mean its easier said then done.  Would you  put speed up front Raymond-Kadri-Kessel?

  • mcloki

    Burtonboy Pent_House And a more stable Defence and upgraded goaltending. Watch the Hab bodies hit the floor tonight around the net.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Anthony Petrielli 
    Not if you reguarly read these comments

  • Greg Fenton

    Uncle Otis Cameron19 They aren’t the only team that improved though.

  • dlb eh

    FloorHockeyFlopper 
    team possession is a 4 line thing.  let’s remember the defence too.  5 man unit up and back.  if the defence is improved, it helps as much as the new shiny forwards.

  • Pent_House

    Time to put my 1.4L Luksusowa bottle in the freezer baby!

  • dlb eh

    Greg Fenton
    we can only control what we can control
    there’s no telling who improved until we see it.  teams that added players also lost key contributors.  you of all people should start with that.

  • wendelsway1

    I was one of the few, at the start of the season, that had them making playoffs…..we’re winning our division this year…..GO LEAFS GO!!

  • FloorHockeyFlopper

    dlb eh FloorHockeyFlopper I hope your rite cuz running around vs the 1st preseason game vs Detroit with a full starter team – Kessel didn’t look anything close to a possession team