- After starting the season as second favorites to win the division behind the Tampa Bay Lightning at +217, the Toronto Maple Leafs have seen their odds pushed all the way out to a season-worst average of +2250
- Toronto is currently 11 points behind second-place Tampa and 14 behind the division-leading Boston Bruins
- The Leafs are +2250 on average to win the Atlantic but who is the best bet?
Toronto entered the 2019-20 season full of hope. Despite a second straight first-round playoff exit at the hand of the Boston Bruins, optimism was overflowing in Toronto that not only were the Maple Leafs the team of the future, but they could well be the team of the present, too.
However, a tough start to the season saw a number of injuries to key players and the team’s defensive frailties exposed. Stanley Cup-winning head coach Mike Babcock paid for the poor start with his job in November, and while the promotion of Sheldon Keefe from the AHL Marlies to replace him gave the team a momentary shot in the arm, the Leafs have slid backwards of late.
As a result, their NHL division odds have followed suit, with the team now some way off the likes of the Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic race.
Average Odds to Win 2020 Atlantic Division
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+130|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+2250|
|Detroit Red Wings||+300000|
Odds taken on Feb. 10
While the head coach is always the first person to take the blame publicly for poor results, the Leafs’ woes can in many ways be attributed to a flawed, and unbalanced, roster.
Collectively, the forward quartet of captain John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander take up 49.7% of the team’s salary cap, which leaves very little wiggle room to fill out other positions of need.
The combined cap hit of John Tavares, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner is $40.489366 million. The salary cap for this year is $81.5 million.
— 𝐃𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐝 𝐀𝐥𝐭𝐞𝐫 (@dalter) September 13, 2019
Case in point would be the team’s seemingly endless quest to find a serviceable backup goaltender after the struggles of Garrett Sparks last year and Michael Hutchinson this season. That problem was magnified last week when starter Frederik Andersen went down with what the team termed a neck injury. Not only did the Leafs cough up a 3-1 third-period lead to Florida in the game he was injured in, but they then went to New York and lost to the Rangers.
Hours after that game, general manager Kyle Dubas pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in goaltender Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive.
#LeafsForever new acquisition Jack Campbell is 8-10-2 with a 2.85 GAA & .900 SV% through 20 games this season.
Current backup Michael Hutchinson is 4-9-1 with a 3.66 GAA, .886 SV% & 1 Shutout through 15 games this season. pic.twitter.com/ixMt1wZLQU
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 6, 2020
But while the team’s forwards can seemingly score for fun – the team’s 200 goals is third in the NHL – its all-round defensive play leaves a lot to be desired. As a result, while the Leafs can outscore a lot of teams, they struggle when they come up against contending squads.
Toronto’s results against the other contending teams in the Atlantic Division are a perfect illustration of the team’s troubles. The Leafs have gone 1-5-0 in six games against Boston, Tampa and Florida, the teams it really needed to beat on a regular basis to stay in the hunt for the division crown.
The other major obstacle to Toronto’s Atlantic Division aspirations has been the form of the Bruins and Lightning. The two teams are currently first and second overall in the Presidents’ Trophy race, and while Boston has been strong all season, Tampa has really heated up of late and is putting on a strong charge.
Best NHL Records (PTS %) since January 11th:
1) Blue Jackets 9-1-1
2) Avalanche 7-1-1
3) Lightning 9-2-1
4) Canadiens 9-3-0
5) Bruins 8-3-1
— Matt Casavant (@Mcaz) February 10, 2020
As the defending Presidents’ Trophy champions following a 62-win season last year, Tampa came into the 2019-20 season suffering from something of a playoff hangover after being swept out of the playoffs in the first round. But with the remnants of that memory firmly in the rear-view mirror, the team is turning up the pressure on Boston and is currently on a seven-game win streak.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have the👏same👏exact👏record👏as the Washington Capitals and are only 3 point back from the Boston Bruins with 1 game in hand. Please keep talking about how they are having a “so so” season! #GoBolts #Lightning pic.twitter.com/SysAOrmJco
— Steve Cain ⚡️ (@TheRealSBC) February 11, 2020
Either way, even if the Leafs had been firing on all cylinders, they would have had trouble staying in the division race. But up against a pair of dominant teams such as the Bruins and Lightning, teams that don’t just have designs on the division crown, but the NHL crown too, Toronto was always going to be in a difficult race, one that it just doesn’t have the ability to win this season.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.