No Phil Kessel, a new coach in Mike Babcock and a new general manager in Lou Lamoriello and that's just scratching the surface of the organizational changes.
On the surface, there was a little bit more subtraction, more than there was addition, especially on the roster. The Leafs were more about adding some quality depth, as they now await their new youth movement to mature and populate the top six spots in the forward lines.
With Babcock at the helm, there is going to be a big onus on the defense to be much better and the group that they have, in theory, should be capable of making the change and possibly do a little bit more with the talents they have.
In goal, I think they have a couple of capable keepers, so as long as the forwards and defense take to the new coaching style, we should be able to see some improvements in, what a lot of people thought, was one of their weaker areas last season. If I had a defense like that in front of me, I probably wouldn't have given 100% either.
There is no question that the Maple Leafs will not turn into a Cup contender overnight with the change at the helm and it will likely be a slower process, but at least it is a process that Leaf fans can get behind, but will it be something that poolies will get behind as well?
|James Van Riemsdyk||F||50|
Table last updated on August 11th
First Round Picks
The Maple Leafs didn't have anyone in the top 23 last season, which would have made for the opening round of the hockey pool draft, nor did they have anyone in the top 46. In this time of rebuilding, an opening round Maple Leafs player is a laughable suggestion.
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
It has been a little while since Dion Phaneuf was a real measuring stick in the hockey pool circles, when it came to scoring. He was asked to be a lot of things when he came to Toronto and that may have limited his drive to be more offensive most nights. The change in coaching staff brings Phaneuf to the forefront, as a player that could potentially move on, if he is deemed a poor fit for the organization or the new staff will continue to look to him for leadership and maybe some more scoring. This is definitely what intrigues me about Phaneuf this year. It was only the 2013 season, where he finished 9th among defensemen in scoring, so not too long ago.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Without Kessel, the Leafs forwards are going to suffer. Who's going to pull the trigger?
It's a long enough season and James Van Riemsdyk has enough talent to get points, but it won't be at the same rate. Leafs forwards, almost as a whole, aren't going to be rated quite as well as they might have been, but there are still some worthy candidates. Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri will be right there in the mix, while Joffrey Lupul, if he can stay healthy, has a shot at being worthy again, although not near as good as he once was.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Like I had mentioned earlier, I think the Leafs defense is going to be where we see some good producers for the hockey pool. The 2016 season has some real potential for Morgan Rielly, who I think can take the reins of the scoring lead, while Phaneuf can get back to being a dominant physical force. Don't forget about Jake Gardiner, who I'm sure most Leaf fans are happy that the team didn't trade him away.
I don't think anyone is going to go right after Jonathan Bernier, but if you're struggling for a number one goalie in the early rounds of the draft, don't forget about him. Even if things start to get bleak for the Leafs, there's a pretty good chance that he's still going to get the minutes in the crease and James Reimer will be his back-up. That's the way I've projected it here and I would be comfortable getting either of them, in a relative spot, as per their projections.
Possible Entries Into the Rookie Race
The Leafs have a couple of possible entries into the race, maybe more if they were brash about how quickly they wanted to bring some along. 2014 1st round picks, William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen, each have a good shot at making the club in the 2016 season, given that there is a couple roster spots left open, heading into camp.
Team To Pick From Late?
I have a feeling that the Leafs will be picked from throughout the draft, but I wouldn't be looking for many miracles from the depth of their roster. The players that are listed above would be the best I would work with, so if the rookies are available late, I might consider it. If you're struggling for names and banking on teams, don't bank on a rebuilding Toronto team to help your cause this year.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
There's nobody of note left for the Maple Leafs to sign, they've let go of David Booth and Eric Brewer, who are each looking for new places to play, but no one seems to be in a hurry to sign these two, especially the Leafs.
Normally a team that plays with a big budget, the Leafs have really pared down the scope of their spending, especially when it comes to their roster. With a few roster spots left open, their current 20-man roster (without rookies), comes in with $12.2 million left in cap space.
Now, that number doesn't count Nathan Horton, who is on their books in a deal from Columbus, who may, in fact, count against their bottom line, but shouldn't be in the workable numbers for their roster. If the Leafs were to get into cap trouble, Horton's cap hit, if it ever became a problem, could be shifted to LTIR and relief would be assumed from opening night.
An off-season torn Achilles tendon for Swedish defender Petter Granberg has already sidelined him for the better part of the Summer and he isn't likely to be ready for opening night, especially given that he has missed a Summer's worth of training, having suffered the injury in June. I'm not sure he would have been pool-worthy, but you just never know who is out there looking for talent in left field.