Atlantic Division 2014-15 Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs
COACH: Randy Carlyle
2013-14 RECORD: 38-36-8, 84 points (sixth in Atlantic; missed playoffs)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.82 goals-for per game (13th); 3.12 goals-against per game (26th); 19.84 power play pct. (6th); 78.36 penalty kill pct. (28th); shootout record: 9-4 (3rd)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
James van Riemsdyk — Tyler Bozak — Phil Kessel
David Booth — Mike Santorelli — Joffrey Lupul
Daniel Winnik — Nazem Kadri — David Clarkson
Leo Komarov — Peter Holland — Troy Bodie
Matt Frattin, Colton Orr
OUTLOOK: Offense shouldn't be a problem for the Leafs. James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel form a formidable top line. Joffrey Lupul could score 30 from the second line if he ever stays healthy and Leo Komarov, back from the KHL, gives Toronto a premier agitator. There is pressure on Nazem Kadri to get his play up to the level of his talk. If only the kid had the production to match his confidence, he'd be an All-Star. The bottom six is deeper and better balanced than last season and should help the Leafs' much-maligned possession game. The defense, though? It remains a question mark, despite several additions over the summer. Stephane Robidas, when he's healthy, and Roman Polak are a pretty significant upgrade to the second pair, and there are very high hopes for progress from Morgan Rielly. Cody Franson is also back for this year, but perhaps not much longer. The club signed him to a one-year deal this summer, setting him up to shape up or ship out. Perhaps the most significant off-season move the Leafs made was forming an advanced analytics team . While it won’t have an immediate impact on the team's fortunes, it'll be interesting to see what, if any, difference it makes in the future. Considering that many other clubs already have a similar crew in place, it's more about catching up than creating a real advantage.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Dion Phaneuf
One of the most polarizing players in the game, Phaneuf is essentially a lightning rod for the entire Toronto defense. If he's going, the D is going. And if the D is going, this team has a shot at the playoffs. The key, though, will be minimizing the massive, game-changing mistakes that he makes far too frequently. If Phaneuf struggles out of the gate, it's not inconceivable that the Leafs may decide to part ways with their captain.
PREDICTION: 93 points, fourth in Atlantic (wild card 2)