If there is a way to have a perfect bad season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are not far from it. Through 37 games, the Maple Leafs are 15-15-7, second last in the Atlantic Division. Their 37 points through the first two fifths of the season is the fourth worst in the entire NHL. However, the Maple Leafs have been better than this record suggests.
They are currently 18th in the league in goals per game at 2.57, which is not terrible after scoring two or less in 10 of their first 16 games this season. The Maple Leafs also have the 14th best powerplay and 18th best penalty kill in the NHL – which for a team sitting at the bottom of the standings is a respectable position to be in.
Ten of their 15 wins have come against the weaker Western Conference, including two wins against the first-place Dallas Stars, two wins versus the St. Louis Blues, a win versus the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators. So the Maple Leafs have had some impressive wins throughout the season, and to begin the 2016 year, the Maple Leafs will play five of their first six games versus the West.
The Maple Leafs are also getting strong individual performances from their top players. James Van Riemsdyk leads the way with 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists); Leo Komarov has been the biggest surprise with 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists); Tyler Bozak is having a bounce back year with 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists); P.A. Parenteau has 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists); and Dion Phaneuf is showing success with 19 points (3 goals, 16 assists). Peter Holland, Joffrey Lupul and Daniel Winnik are other notable players having a good season.
With a bad record and most key players having a good season, the Maple Leafs are in perfect position to be strong sellers at the March 2 trade deadline. With the listed players above creating value for themselves, the Maple Leafs are in position to trading them all (or at least most of them) and getting good value in return.
The younger players on the Maple Leafs are also having a good season with Nazem Kadri proving he can be a top line centre, and Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner improving as young defencemen. Then there are the younger players still with the Toronto Marlies, who are currently the best team in the AHL with 56 points (eight points better than the next best team).
William Nylander has been the most notable player as the Maple Leafs’ first round pick in 2014. With the Marlies this season, Nylander has 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists). Nylander joined Sweden for the World Juniors, but suffered a head injury after a dirty hit to the head.
Kasperi Kapanen is another Marlie that joined his home nation of Finland at the World Juniors. With the Marlies, Kapanen has 10 points and he has four points with Finland through six games.
Dmytro Timashov is the Maple Leafs 2015 fifth round pick from Sweden. Timashov has been playing in the QMJHL league for the 2015-16 year, where he’s put up 53 points in 29 games. He was supposed to be on the same line as Nylander with Sweden’s World Junior team, but even without Nylander, Timashov has put up seven points in six games.
Toronto had two players join the Canadian World Juniors team: forward Mitch Marner and defenceman Travis Dermott. Marner, the Maple Leafs fourth overall pick in 2015, has been on every Leaf fan’s radar as he’s a huge piece to the future success of the NHL club. With Canada, Marner had six points in five games – he had two goals in Canada’s elimination game versus Finland.
Therefore, even though the Maple Leafs’ record is poor this season, the future looks bright. Kadri, Rielly and Gardiner are having better seasons under new head coach Mike Babcock. Nylander, Marner, Timashov, Kapanen and Dermott give the Maple Leafs some top prospects.
Once the trade deadline comes, the Maple Leafs have some value in their veteran players to get even younger. The process might be a long one for the Maple Leafs, but having a good-bad season is a perfect start to the process.