Last couple of weeks there has been a lot of chatter about playoffs in relation to the Leafs between fans and media alike. Currently the Leafs find themselves outside of the playoff picture and one point out of the Eastern Conference basement, however they have played in some cases 4 less games than the teams above them in the standings. A lot can change for sure after the Leafs catch up in games played.
Very few thought this was possible coming into the 2016-2017 season, I know I didn’t think they would make the playoffs. I still don’t because there are still major holes on the defense after Morgan Reilly and Nikita Zaitsev they still need to fill. This isn’t mentioning the 7 rookies all learning to play the high paced and grueling NHL style of game.
My preseason thoughts were that this team would eclipse their win total of last year because the elite skill the rookies and the much improved goaltending would flip some of their one goal losses from last year.
I was excited to see what progress would be made because I am not of the belief that developing and promoting a culture of losing helps in the development of the rookies. on the flip side I am also of the belief that the Leafs could draft a defenseman that they need in the top 10 of the draft or at worst middle of the first round thus minimizing the need to win or fight for lottery position. That’s not to say the Leafs couldn’t land a defenseman via trade or free agency next summer as they will have plenty of assets at the forward position they could trade and money to spend in free agency.
This year’s premature talk of playoffs has overshadowed certain aspects that would have already made this season to date a success. Things like Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner all looking like legit NHL prospects, to the emergence of Frederik Andersen who now appears to be the number one goalie the Leafs haven’t had since Curtis Joseph, who could have predicted what we have seen from Nazeem Kadri who has developed a complete game to become another piece of the Leafs leadership group moving forward.
So Leaf fans we have a lot to look forward to, the playoffs are probably one or two seasons away. So let’s enjoy the journey, the end of the dark tunnel is almost here.