Before I get into the Leafs preview, let me spout off. Bear with me as I foam at the mouth on the few nonchanges the NHL has made. Yes, I said nonchanges, because technically the NHL did not change the slashing/psycho rule.
The problem I have is that the League should have been enforcing this rule for some time now. Because the League did not enforce the slashing rule, we have endured games of two hundred power plays. I just don’t get why they have not disciplined the officials for not calling the game right in the first place. The fact, the League enforcing the rule is good; the fact it took so long is stupid. The players look like a bunch of Keystone Cops learning to cope with the changes.
Now back to the Maple Leafs Preview.
Let’s call Mr. Mike Babcock the head chef.
He starts with a base of Matthews, adds some spice with Hayman and Brown. He adds some more sugar with Marner, JVR, and Bozak.
Then he adds some flavoring with Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, and Patrick Marleau. Mr. Babcock has all of the ingredients for a 5-star dinner. It takes a chef to gather all the ingredients and mix them just right to make it work. Babcock needs to know when and how to add the ingredients.
The thing that makes the Leafs so dangerous is that they have the best second line in the League; JVR, Marner, and Bozak. The third lines can do a little supportive scoring.
The defense is another story; The Leafs lack a steady stay-home dman who can stabilize the Keystone Cops mistakes. Too many times, the Leafs were blowing leads, doing the silly things that give coaches grey hair. Reilly needs some help. Hainsey will have the biggest role in his career. Another leader, Gardiner, has to stop the mental breakdowns. With his offensive skills, he could be a star.
The goaltending is in good hands, to paraphrase an AllState commercial. Andersson is one of the best in the League. He is a great stand-up goalie, who covers his angles. McElhinney was stellar when he stepped in to give Andersson a rest now and then.
I expect the Leafs to get 100 points. I expect a second or third place in the division.