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Can Toronto Maple Leafs come good in 2023?
Updated June 30, 2022
The season is just over, but already attention and focus are turning to the 2022/23 NHL season, so we want to take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs and see if there is any possibility they can rival the stunning Colorado Avalanche for the Stanley Cup next year.
We already know that Tampa Bay won’t give in without a fight, but who else can give Jared Bednar’s team a real challenge next season? The Toronto Maple Leafs are a name that appears in the betting to win the Stanley Cup, but they are also a side who are often overlooked.
Tampa Bay knocked out the Maple Leafs in Round 1 of the 2022 playoffs. They won the previous two Stanley Cup finals, and they ran the overwhelming favorites, the Colorado Avalanche close in this season’s final, looking for their three-peat.
So why would anyone wager on a Toronto Stanley Cup win ahead of Tampa Bay? Well, maybe the Maple Leafs are quietly headed in the right direction, but it’s just not completely obvious.
The best NHL betting sites see them as a danger, they wouldn’t be third favorites in the betting otherwise. And they did hang around the top of the betting for the majority of last season, up until their 1st round playoff defeat to Tampa Bay.
A closer inspection of the Maple Leafs season shows there is a lot of potential in the Canadian giants – once a household name across the world, never mind just in North America.
It’s easy just to write them off, and say it’s over 50 years without a Stanley Cup, or they always crumble when the going gets tough – all phrases I’ve used to describe Toronto in recent years. But when you dig down, a lot is going on for Toronto.
In the Atlantic Division last season, the Maple Leafs finished second behind the Florida Panthers. Was it a good season? Well, yes and no. Toronto finished 7 points behind the Panthers, but they also finished 5 points ahead of third-placed Tampa Bay Lightning. So you can look at it in two ways.
It can be said there is room for improvement in the team, and there is also an opportunity for General Manager, Kyle Dubas, to perform some magic tricks in the trading period before the season starts.
Dubas is Key if Maple Leafs are to be successful in 2023
He may have his critics in some quarters, but is Kyle Dubas doing that bad a job as General Manager? Yes, signings like Petr Mrazek may have gone wrong, something which Dubas carries the can for. But he has got a lot of other big decisions correct – which can often be overlooked.
For example, Dubas pulled off great deals to get hold of Michael Bunting, David Kampf, and Ondrej Kase. It was a gamble, but with salary cap funds released for use elsewhere, the deals seem to have paid off.
Some may argue that the money saved there went some way to offsetting the Mrazek deal!
Dubas also showed faith in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly after the 2021 playoffs. Many might have disagreed with him at the time, but he was pretty much proven right on nearly all of those guys, as most had pretty strong seasons this time around.
And it’s one of the above names, Auston Matthews, that makes the Maple Leafs a real threat, and is what always keeps them in the betting with the front runners.
Matthews led the NHL with 60 goals in the regular season. That’s 5 more than his closest rival, Leon Draisaitl, of the Edmonton Oilers. Any side with firepower like that up front will always have a puncher’s chance.
Elsewhere, and patience in William Nylander is now being rewarded, and it’s fair to say that there is still room for improvement in captain, John Tavares.
All these things are reasons for Maple Leaf fans to remain optimistic. But on the flip side, one area they need to double down on is the goaltender. Do they stick with John Campbell, and what happens with Petr Mrazek? These are two questions that need to be answered by Kyle Dubas.
Maybe if Jack Campbell is backed, he might come good. Dubas is the sort of guy to show patience, as alluded to above. But could it be time to try and look elsewhere?
The importance of a top-notch goaltender is key to the Maple Leafs’ progress. Just looking at the two teams who made it to the Stanley Cup final confirms that.
Both Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay, and Darcy Koemper of the Avalanche were solid performers in the playoffs. And on occasions, were the busiest goaltenders in some matches, but still got their respective teams into the final.
Dubas has a huge call to make there. And depending on what he decides could determine the sort of season the Maple Leafs have.