The season is just under one month old and playoff conversations have already started to take place. The newly designed divisions have teams playing their heart out every single night, which makes for a great product on the ice. Unfortunately, due to geography some teams were placed in a relatively more challenging division than others.
The North division is shaping up to be one of those “less challenging” divisions due to some underwhelming and unexpected performances from certain teams within Canada. This was not the case for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they came out of the gates strong firing on all cylinders. This is clearly not the same Maple Leafs teams of the past as the aura surrounding the team seems different and situations that would normally result in a negative outcome, have turned positive for Toronto. This is a welcoming change for a team that is usually so predictable.
The only surprise to date in the North Division has been the play of historic Maple Leafs’ rival the Montreal Canadiens to the point where, when it comes to odds to win the division, it’s basically Toronto, Montreal, and everyone else.
Toronto will have some serious obstacles to overcome in the upcoming week(s) and beyond as injuries continue to pile up with two more names added to the list in the way of Wayne Simmonds (possibly out 6 weeks with an upper body injury) and Travis Dermott (day-day). But I’m not concerned, as the play of the Maple Leafs in the first 12 games leads me to believe the Maple Leafs can weather this storm and come out on top. More will be asked obviously all the players each night, but one has to think given the evidence so far this season that shouldn’t be an issue.
One only has to look at the play of Jason Spezza, Travis Boyd and Nic Patan. Since becoming a line only two games ago, they have been an offensive threat almost each shift they have hit the ice. Jason Spezza’s hattrick is just one of the highlights to start this young season, as he appears to have found the fountain of youth. He appears engaged and less shackled than he was under previous coach Mike Babcock.
If guys like Alexander Kerfoot and snake-bitten Illya Mikheyev can find the back the of the net over the next few weeks, this will go a long way to see the Maple Leafs tighten their grip on the North Division and help overcome the unfortunate injuries the team is experiencing.
This team knew coming into this season that at some point they would have to overcome some serious tests to prove that they have learned from past failures. Well, here we are with one game remaining against the Vancouver Canucks and a back to back against second place Montreal Canadiens to end the week to see what this current group of Maple Leafs are capable of. The tests are being served, I am confident the team will pass with flying colours.