Isles Talk continues it’s season preview series with a team that is under more scrutiny than any other team outside of Montreal, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs began their off-season with an overhaul of management by hiring former NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan as their new team president. General manager Dave Nonis was retained as well as the surprise return of Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. The Leafs were gracious enough to let assistant Greg Cronin go and he’s now with the Islanders with much more experience than his first stint. For the Leafs it’s not just about how you start, but finishing strong will be key for the Leafs season.
2013-14 Record: 38-36-8 84 points
Additions: D Roman Polak, D Stephane Robidas, LW David Booth, RW Matt Frattin, C Leo Komarov, C Petri Kontiola, C Mike Santorelli, C Daniel Winnick
Subtractions: D Tim Gleason, D Carl Gunnarsson, C Dave Bolland, LW Mason Raymond, D Nikolai Kulemin
My take: This team will get better as defenseman Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardner and budding forward Nazem Kadri improve and mature. The Leafs offense will be led by the usual trio of Kessel, Lupul and Van Riemsdyk. As far as camp goes, William Nylander has impressed me so far. Will he crack the lineup this year? Can the Leafs stay healthy? Most important, can the Leafs finish strong towards the end of the season? This Leafs organization have not eclipsed over the 92 point mark since the 2003-04 season. TEN YEARS!!! Last year, the Leafs lost to the Wings for the final playoff spot by nine points and the Wings were decimated by injuries. Will Randy Carlyle be on a short leash? Will the players be held accountable? One thing is certain, Shanahan will not stand for mediocrity.
As far as the Leafs and the playoffs goes, I’ll believe it when I see it. The team defense must get better, as they have been allowing over 250 goals in each of three full seasons. I like the minor league system and the organization should improve from within, but it’s time for the Leafs to step up.