- The Toronto Maple Leafs have made the playoffs three-straight seasons
- They are coming off the first back-to-back 100-point seasons in franchise history
- With a recent shift in their odds, where does the action on the Leafs lead us?
After a decade of futility, the Toronto Maple Leafs have officially risen into “perennial contender” status.
Having made the Stanley Cup playoffs three consecutive seasons, simply making it is no longer the expectation. It’s now Stanley Cup or bust in the Six.
With their sights set higher, the Leafs’ odds to make the playoffs continue to get better and better. Is there any value to be had anywhere on the board?
2019/20 Playoff Odds in Atlantic Division
|Team||2018/19 Point Total||Result||Odds to Make Playoffs at BetOnline*||Odds to Miss Playoffs at BetOnline|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||128||Lost ECQF||-400||+320|
|Boston Bruins||107||Lost SCF||-300||+250|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||100||Lost ECQF||-320||+260|
|Montreal Canadiens||96||Missed Playoffs||+125||-145|
|Florida Panthers||86||Missed Playoffs||-250||+210|
|Buffalo Sabres||76||Missed Playoffs||+175||-210|
|Detroit Red Wings||74||Missed Playoffs||+400||-500|
|Ottawa Senators||64||Missed Playoffs||+700||-1000|
*Odds taken 09/05/2019
Looking at SBD’s NHL playoff odds tracker, things have been trending up for Toronto. While the Sabres, Blue Jackets, Devils and Rangers saw their playoff odds get worse, the Maple Leafs’ got better.
That means money is coming in Toronto to make the playoffs. And that’s likely because they fixed one of their biggest flaws.
Toronto Maple Leafs Re-Shaped Blueline
General manager Kyle Dubas was charged with a monumental task in the off-season: upgrade Toronto’s defense. To make matters worse, he wasn’t exactly flush with cap space. The realities of Dubas’ challenge makes what he accomplished in the off-season all the more impressive.
Toronto Maple Leafs Additions and Subtractions on Defense
|Cody Ceci||Igor Ozhiganov|
|Ben Harpur||Ron Hainsey|
|Tyson Barrie||Jake Gardiner|
|Jordan Schmaltz||Calle Rosen|
The pieces that didn’t quite fit in with how Toronto plays are gone. In their place is puck-mover Tyson Barrie, and players on short-term deals that give the Leafs cap flexibility after this season.
The Leafs recently acquired Muzzin & Barrie. Both Sandin & Liljegren are close to making the NHL.
It goes without saying: Dubas continues to build a defence that can defend the 30-50 feral hogs that run into Scotiabank arena within 3-5 minutes while his small players play.
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) August 5, 2019
One of the more interesting trade-offs is Ceci for Zaitsev. Ceci will offer more offensively than what Zaitsev has the last two seasons, but will he be better in the defensive end?
Marleau, Gardiner, Zaitsev, Hainsey, Brown all gone. Shrug. No big miss. Upgrades in Ceci and Barrie. And kept Kapenen and Johnson. It’s a stroke of genius. Full credit to Dubas and the Maple Leafs front office. Expendables for short-term quality. Beautiful. #LeafsForever
— Gareth Wheeler (@GarethWheeler) July 1, 2019
Ceci was pushed into a primary role in Ottawa when Erik Karlsson was traded last summer, and it didn’t go well.
From The Leafs Nation:
When he was playing behind Karlsson, his possession entries were 20 percentiles better, and his possession exit rate was 30 percentiles better. His entry defense last season, as the number 1 D was staggeringly bad.
If Ceci finds himself riding shotgun to Jake Muzzin, it could be good for his all-around game, which, in turn, will improve the Leafs defensively.
How Much Hinges on Marner for Toronto Maple Leafs?
The biggest question surrounding the Maple Leafs’ season is Mitch Marner and when he’ll finally sign.
It seems unlikely that the decision lingers into the season, If it does, it likely won’t go as long as William Nylander’s last year. But for argument’s sake, if it does, what kind of early season production will Toronto be missing?
Mitch Marner’s Early Season Production in 2018/19
Last season, 36 of Marner’s 94 points came in the first two months. That’s 38% of his season-long production.
When looking at it across the entire team, Marner led the Leafs in both points and assists (30). In terms of points, he was followed by John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, Auston Matthews, and Kasperi Kapanen.
Kyle Dubas told @TSNBobMcKenzie of Mitch Marner: "There really hasn't been a lot of movement in that [RFA] market. I don't know how it will play out here. We're certainly hopeful and will continue to work towards having Mitch being one of those players signed in the coming week."
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) September 3, 2019
That last name is the key, because Kapanen will have to help carry the load if Marner misses any time, as will Andreas Johnsson and the newly acquired Alex Kerfoot.
Where do the Toronto Maple Leafs land in East playoff picture?
The Leafs are a lock to make the playoffs. They aren’t better than the Lightning, but they can likely edge out the Bruins.
Montreal is the only other top-three quality team in the Atlantic, unless you buy into the offseason hype around the Panthers.
If you don’t like the Leafs’ odds, wait until November. Frederik Andersen is traditionally a slow starter, and maybe the offense lags without Marner.
But slow start or not, the playoffs shouldn’t be in doubt with Toronto.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.