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Leafs Not Even a Top-Five Contender in Updated Eastern Conference Futures; Odds Fall from +625 to +1025

Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Reilly will be out much of the rest of the regular season after fracturing his foot. By Michael Miller (Wiki Commons)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs average Eastern Conference odds have fallen from as short as +420 to begin the season to +1025 now
  • Team has won just one of its last six games and has given up 28 goals over that time
  • Leafs are currently on their bye week but sit outside the playoff positions, three points back of Columbus for the second wild-card spot

The 2019-20 season started out with so much hope for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They appointed John Tavares as the 25th captain in franchise history and were seemingly hell-bent on taking the next steps towards a Stanley Cup.

But after stumbling out of the gate, Toronto decided to make a coaching change, replacing Mike Babock with Sheldon Keefe, and while the team benefited from the usual boost a new voice behind the bench provides, the team still seems unable to break out of its lackluster ways of late, losing five of its last six games. As a result, the Maple Leafs have seen their NHL Eastern Conference odds fall to an average of +1025.

2020 Eastern Conference Odds

Team Odds at BookMaker.eu
Washington Capitals +450
Boston Bruins +460
Tampa Bay Lightning +500
Pittsburgh Penguins +550
Carolina Hurricanes +875
Florida Panthers +1000
New York Islanders +1200
Toronto Maple Leafs +1200
Philadelphia Flyers +2000
Columbus Blue Jackets +2000
Montreal Canadiens +2500
Buffalo Sabres +4000
New York Rangers +5000
New Jersey Devils +50000
Ottawa Senators +50000
Detroit Red Wings +300000

Odds taken Jan. 22

Tough Road Ahead

If the Leafs are to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, it seems they are determined to do it the hard way. Already sitting outside the playoff places entering the all-star break, the team is three points behind Columbus for the second wild-card, and four behind the Florida Panthers for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

At the top of the division, Toronto’s playoff nemesis the last two seasons, the Boston Bruins, are sitting pretty, while a resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning – who have gone 8-2-0 – over their last 10, look to have snapped out of their early-season funk. Either way, it seems likely that one of the two will end up winning the division, leaving Toronto probably in a dogfight with Florida for third.

Of course, even if they can sneak past Florida and avoid going the wild-card route, which would leave them open to playing whoever wins the Atlantic Division or the Metropolitan champ, which could be someone like the Washington Capitals, the portents for a long playoff run aren’t good for Toronto.

Defensively Challenged

It’s no secret that the Leafs have a tough time in their own end. One look at the team’s roster makeup shows that most of the cap room has gone to fund high-priced offensive talent such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares.

But their defense took a hit recently when arguably their top two defensemen – Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin – went down with fractured feet. As a result, their defense has been even more porous than usual giving up 28 goals in their last six games, while the 165 goals they’ve conceded this season puts them above only New Jersey and Detroit amongst Eastern Conference teams.

And while the team’s backers can point to the 176 goals that the team has scored, good for third in the conference, the top-six goal-scoring teams in the conference are all their likely playoff opponents. But on the defensive end, only Florida occupies a similarly low standing in the goals-against department.

Net Loss

Without a serviceable backup goaltender to mention, the heavy workload has fallen upon Frederik Andersen once again, and once again, it’s starting to show. The Leafs team save percentage of .901 is well below the league average of .908, and Andersen’s own mark of .909 is well behind the likes of Boston’s Tuukka Rask (.925) and Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (.917).

Of course, a large part of that is down to the lack of dependable defense in front of him. The Leafs have given up 161 high-danger scoring chances this season, well above the league average of 142, and though only 13% of those have resulted in goals, it doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.

Keefe, the team’s new head coach, seem demonstrably frustrated after their last game, a 6-2 home loss to Chicago, which had followed quickly on the heels of an 8-4 loss in Florida, claiming that his team lacked maturity. His inability to get his team to focus on the defensive side of their game, just as Babcock failed before him, seems increasingly to be a personnel problem, not a coaching one.

All of which adds up to the probability that if Toronto is going to take the next step in its development and get out of the Eastern Conference, it’s unlikely to be this year.

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