NHL Season Review: Toronto Maple Leafs
Welcome to NHL season review: a brand new series that will breakdown every NHL team this off season. You can expect to see a new post everyday until the end of July, starting from the 30th place team, and finishing with the Stanley Cup champions. With so many changes coming in the off season, some teams will be improving dramatically, while others will be forced to make some tough decisions for the future. It’s going to be a fun month of hockey talk, so sit down, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Year in Review
- Record: 30-44-8
- Goals per game: 2.51 (24th)
- Goals against per game: 3.13 (26th)
- Power play: 15.9% (26th)
- Penalty kill: 80.4% (22nd)
- Shots per game: 29.2 (22nd)
- Shots against per game: 33.5 (29th)
After another disappointing season, the Maple Leafs look ready to make some serious changes this off season. After struggling in the first half of the season, the Leafs fired Randy Carlyle with the hopes of turning their season around and making the playoffs. Not only did that plan fail, but the team actually played worse under interim head coach Peter Horachek, finishing 27th in the league. It was clear that something had to be done, so management decided this off season was the time to finally start rebuilding the broken Maple Leafs.
After two seasons with the Leafs, Toronto decided to part ways with GM Dave Nonis. Unable to move high-priced players like Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf at the trade deadline, much of the blame fell on Nonis for the team’s performance. It wasn’t entirely his fault, but the ax had to fall somewhere and Nonis was the first to go.
With Brendan Shanahan now basically in charge of running the team, he wasted very little time finding the perfect man for the job in Toronto. Even before the end of the season, speculation was that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock would look to pursue other NHL coaching options once the season ended. This speculation became realty a few months later as Babcock signed the richest deal ever for a head coach (8 years/$6.25MM AVG.) on May 20. With arguably one of the best coaches in NHL history now in Toronto, it looked like fans could expect their beloved team to return to glory. He would have been the so-called “savior” of the team, but Shanahan wasn’t looking to win in the near future.
With the Leafs destined for a rebuild, the club decided to make some major changes, including trading away top forward Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forwards Nick Spaling and Kasperi Kapanen, defenseman Scott Harrington, plus first-and third-round picks in 2016. The Leafs also sent Tyler Biggs, defenseman Tim Erixon and a 2016 second-round pick back to Pittsburgh. For fans, it’s the end of a long love/hate relationship with the superstar winger, but it also classifies the Leafs as a team looking to build through the draft, and that means things in Leafs country might go from bad to even worse next season.
Offseason Game Plan
The Leafs got things rolling at the draft by selecting hometown product Mitchell Marner from the London Knights. Marner was by far one of the Canadian Hockey League’s best players last season—totaling 126 points (44G, 82A) in 63 games. The Markham, ON native will certainly have his chance to prove to Leafs management that he’s ready to play in the NHL next season, and if Shanahan can manage to move Tyler Bozak out of Toronto, it would give Marner all the opportunities needed to learn the ropes at the NHL level.
With the Leafs currently locked up for $56.7M next season according to CapFriendly, Shanahan has all the budget he needs to acquire some much needed help if he chooses to do so. He started July 1 by signing free agents Matt Hunwick, P.A Parenteau and Mark Arcobello. Hundwick and Arcobello will bring some much needed depth to a Toronto team that had very little of it last season, while Parenteau looks to crack a top-six spot next season and bring some much-needed scoring to a team that finished 24th in goals per game.
Outside of those minor deals, Toronto isn’t expected to be a major player this off season. There’s no question that Shanahan would like to move captain Dion Phaneuf for a package of prospects and draft picks, but with the Leafs asking price reportedly being too high for anyone interested in Phaneuf’s services (not to mention his massive $7M salary till 2021-22), it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dion start the season in Toronto. If you are looking to see these exciting games live over the next few months, toronto maple leafs tickets can be found with many online retailers!
There’s no question that the Leafs need a rebuild now. Fans will need to be patient with their team and that means another season not making the playoffs. Babcock was able to take an injury depleted Red Wings team and take them to the playoffs last season, but the Wings aren’t the Leafs, and that may be a challenge too big for even the greatest of coaches to take on. So for now, fans will have to wait and see what management decides to do. But if I were them, I’d get ready for a lot more changes and a lot of rough nights at the ACC.