Oct 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (29) celebrates an overtime goal scored by defenseman Matt Hunwick (2) against the Montreal Canadiens during a preseason hockey game at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
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There have been enough previews about the upcoming Toronto Maple Leafs season, so there’s no point in writing another one. Instead, how about some bold predications for the season.
At this point everyone knows enough about who will be on the Maple Leafs and what to expect from them. We know what are the expectations from guys like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Nonetheless, with the season about to get underway, there are so many directions to go for bold predictions.
After the way the team was constructed last season, everyone could predict a 30th place finish for the Maple Leafs. However, this season could be a lot different. From the kids that will be on this team to some of the managerial moves the front office will make. Making predications for this team will take a lot more thinking rather than just saying this team will be bad and will finish at the bottom.
Now without further ado here are five bold predications for the 2016-2017 Maple Leafs season.
Oct 6, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) reacts aftyer scoring agoal against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of a preseason hockey game at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Matthews will be the number one center after 20 games
Originally I wanted to say 10 games before Matthews takes over as the number one center. However, with Mike Babcock at the helm, it could take a bit for Matthews to climb up the depth chart.
As many of you already know, Matthews has been slotted to start the season on the third line. However, this won’t last very long as the World Cup of Hockey showed how quickly he can climb up the depth chart.
On Team North America Matthews was slotted as the 13th forward going into the tournament. That didn’t last very long as he was able to make his way to the top line to play with Connor McDavid.
Finally, look at the players he leaped over to play on the first line. If he can surpass the likes of Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, and others, it’s pretty safe to say he can leap over Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri.
Nonetheless, after 20 games the number one center will be Matthews. He will be out there on all situations and will definitely have the trust of Babcock.
Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Mark Hunter announces Mitchell Marner (not pictured) as the number four overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs as commissioner Gary Bettman looks on in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The Leafs will add at least another former London Knight
Recently the Maple Leafs claimed Seth Griffith off waivers from the Boston Bruins. The 23 year-old recorded 24 goals and 77 points in 57 games for the Providence Bruins. However, in 34 NHL games for the Bruins, posting six goals and five assists.
Want to take a guess at where Griffith played his junior hockey?
That’s right, the London Knights, so there’s the connection Mark Hunter has with Griffith. From drafting Mitch Marner to having Scott Harrington be included in the Phil Kessel trade and now claiming Seth Griffith off waivers. Hunter has not shied away from bringing in players that have ties to London.
OHL connection between Seth Griffith and Leafs’ asst. GM Mark Hunter goes back to London Knights.
Which is why I predict that the Maple Leafs will claim or trade for at least two players that have ties to London. Furthermore, with Hunter now having the title of assistant general manager it would not surprise anyone to see a few more former Knights.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if the player is talented then who cares if he has London ties. Nonetheless, it’s always fun to read that when a player has a connection to the Knights because then we all know who made a push for that player.
Oct 6, 2016; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen (31) takes a sip during the second period of a preseason hockey game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Frederik Andersen will not be Toskala 2.0
When Frederik Andersen was acquired it closed the debate as to who would be the number one goalie. Furthermore, once management gave him a five-year contract worth $25 million, it was a lock that he would be the guy in net.
Then in one Olympic qualifier he suffered an upper-body injury. As a result, he was scratched from Team Europe for the World Cup of Hockey. With an injury set back and trying to knock off the rust, Andersen struggled a bit in the pre-season.
After being lit up by the Montréal Canadiens, some fans began to have flashbacks of Vesa Toskala and Jonathan Bernier. Goalies that have come to Toronto to be the guy, but failed miserably.
Look I get it, as Maple Leaf fans it’s in our blood to fear the worse and say, “here we go again” but this will not be the case. Andersen may not be able to steal enough games to get the Maple Leafs in to the playoffs. However, his play will show that he is the number one goalie.
The reasoning? Lou Lamoriello knows his goalies.
He drafted Marin Brodeaur, one of the greatest goalies of all-time. Then when it came time to replace Brodeaur, Lamoriello made a shrewd trade for Cory Schneider. So lets hope he doesn’t lose that magic goalie touch.
Oct 7, 2016; Hamilton, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock (right) talks to his players during a break in the action against the Detroit Red Wings in a preseason hockey game at First Ontario Centre. Detroit defeated Toronto 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Toronto Media Will Rear Its Ugly Head
For the most part, last season was a pretty quiet one from the Toronto media. Sure there was an article by one Dave Feschuk who took a run at Babcock for taking the coaching job for Canada at the World Cup of Hockey.
Aside from that, not much written from the usual cast of characters that are always looking to stir the pot. However, this a new season and the Toronto media will not stay quiet for much longer.
Dave Feschuk’s Babcock article is the funniest piece of Feschuk-penned satire in a Canadian publication this year.
If Babcock mishandles Matthews or Marner at any point this season, there will be guys like Feschuk and Steve Simmons waiting to pounce. Headlines and articles about Babcock and how he’s unfit to coach the young Maple Leafs.
This sounds ludicrous, but it will not be surprising to see this as the season goes along.
Oct 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (16) controls the puck against the Montreal Canadiens during a preseason hockey game at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Marner and Nylander will not be sent junior or AHL
Both Marner and Nylander will begin the season with the Maple Leafs in prominent roles. Marner will be on a line with James Van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, while Nylander will be on the rookie line with Zach Hyman and Auston Matthews.
Will there be ups and downs with these two?
Yes, but the Maple Leafs will more than likely let them get out of any funks they will find themselves in this season. There will be moments in which both look like rookies as they learn the ropes, but they will remain on the team on a full-time basis.
Looks like Marner lining up with Bozak and JVR; Matthews between Nylander and Hyman, Connor Brown getting a shot with Laich and Martin.
Furthermore, I expect both of these wingers to put up anywhere between 40 and 50 points this season, especially if they stay on those lines. They will show flashes of elite skill that just get the fans off their seat.