Toronto enters the season with the promise of a good team, capable of breaking into the top three in their division. But, naturally, maple leafs are not without question marks. Here are five questions as they start the season:
When will Austin Mathews be ready?
Mathews underwent wrist surgery on August 13 and did not appear in any of the team’s six pre-season games. While Mathews looked impressive in training camp workouts – both on his own and when he rejoined the team – he will have to continue to recover at least the first few games. It may be a case of the Leafs and Matthews being cautious but the decision is hard to argue. Toronto needs a defending Rocket Richard Trophy winner to excel not just in the first two games, but throughout the season.
Is Nick Richie Right to Play Matthews and Mitch Marner?
Richie promised to become a bigger body with a mix of skating, tenacity, physical sports and offense to complement the team’s top two players. But that’s all Richie needs to be; The first line role will come with comparisons to Zach Hyman, now in Edmonton. Richie is a bigger and better skater than Hyman and should be a good fit. The Leafs could struggle if he is not, especially with Ilya Mikheev, another prospect of play, with Marner and Mathews expected to miss eight weeks with a thumb injury.
Would two heads be better than one in the Leafs’ target?
In their first four seasons at Toronto, Frederick Anderson called on Jack Campbell and Petr Marzek to replace the minutes given to the team. It is unlikely that Anderson’s ghost will haunt the goalkeeper either – Campbell took over the starter role until the end of last season, with Anderson’s injuries and his ineffective fifth season – but it remains to be seen whether Campbell Or Mirazek may or may not be a sow FIDE No. 1, especially when it comes time for the playoffs. Right now, it appears the two will share the load, with Campbell having an inside track for more play time.
Can the Leafs take advantage of the man again?
The Leafs had the best power play ever in the NHL in March, when they were scoring on 31.7 percent of their chances. And then the targets dried up. The Leafs were ranked 16th by the end of the regular season, then the third-worst success rate of the 16 playoff teams at 13.0 percent. So there have been changes. The club hired assistant coach Spencer Carberry, the former AHL coach of the year, and would work with Manny Malhotra on the power play. A year ago, the Leafs tried to make a low-post presence on two of their units with players like Joe Thornton and Wayne Simmonds. They are going this season with an all-star approach on the top unit and modifying some of the responsibilities, including creating a bumper role for Marner that should allow him to create more opportunities.
Where will secondary scoring come from?
Toronto GM Kyle Dabas signed a bunch of players this season to help fill the bottom-six roles and hopefully contribute some offense. There was a major drop last season after Marner and Matthews in the first row and John Tavares and William Nylander on the second. Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was never entirely happy with his third and fourth line contributions, and teams like Tampa Bay showed the importance of secondary scoring in the playoffs.