Toronto Maple Leafs at the Halfway Point: 8 Bold Predictions Revisited

Brad LeClair@beerad87Correspondent IJanuary 11, 2012

Toronto Maple Leafs at the Halfway Point: 8 Bold Predictions Revisited

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    Many prognosticators try to predict the future prior to the start of the NHL season. They make their predictions and their thoughts well known.

    However, not very many go back and look at what they predicted and how far off they actually were.

    Here we'll go back to an article I wrote over five months ago, prior to the start of training camp. Some of the predictions will be spot on, some won't be.

    So without further interruption, we'll get started.

1. Joffrey Lupul Pots 25-Plus Goals This Season

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    Well on his way, Joffrey Lupul is nearly on top of the NHL right now in points sitting at 47.

    With 19 goals and 28 assists this season, Lupul has made huge strides in his attempted comeback to hockey.

    Drafted seventh overall in 2002, Lupul came into the NHL as a pure sniper.

    Now after the halfway point, Lupul is on pace for more than 90 points and 35 goals.

    If he remains relatively injury-free, I see him scoring at least 25.


2. John Michael Liles Leads the Leafs to a Top 10 Power Play in the NHL

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    Sitting with 21 points this season, Liles has really helped spread out the Leafs' attack on the power play.

    He's made Dion Phaneuf that more dangerous on the power play as well.

    The main thing here to take away from this is the Leafs currently sit third in the NHL in power-play proficiency, and a lot of that has to do with Liles.

    You can argue Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson have also helped the second unit, and that's fair too.

    I'll give myself another point for this prediction thus far.


3. Nazem Kadri Scores 20-Plus Goals This Season

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    This one is the first slide I've gotten wrong—well, sort of.

    Kadri did not make the club out of camp and was sent to the minors in favor of Matt Frattin.

    However, when injuries hit, Kadri has been recalled.

    In 12 games this season, Kadri has three goals and two assists for five points. Yes, with 40 games to go, my prediction was off, but in retrospect, was it really?

    Analyzing the numbers, in a regular 82-game season, Kadri at his current pace in on pace for 20.5 goals this season (per 82 games played).

    I mean, it's grasping at straws, but that's all I have with this prediction.

    You can count one against me.


4. Keith Aulie Doesn't Make the Cut Out of Training Camp

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    Having only played 12 games this season, Aulie fell into the same category as Nazem Kadri—other prospects just had a better camp.

    Jake Gardiner essentially took Aulie's spot in the lineup.

    The one difference, though, between Kadri (who was lighting the AHL on fire) and Aulie (who was getting set on fire—in other words, lit up), was Aulie was called up more on emergency basis, and Kadri was called up because he deserved a shot.

    Aulie, since he's arrived, has played a steady game, and with that said, the Leafs have also played better defensive hockey with he and Mike Komisarek back on the back end.

    I expect Aulie to stick around now, but yes, my prediction was correct prior to camp starting, Aulie just did not make the cut.


5. Matthew Lombardi Plays over 60 Games and Takes over for Tim Connolly

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    Lombardi so far with the Leafs has been pretty invisible.

    He's grown more into a solid penalty killer and role player as opposed to a top-six forward with the Leafs.

    With 40 games remaining and having played 24 already, Lombardi, if he remains healthy, is on pace to break 60 games played.

    However, he will not replace Tim Connolly, nor Tyler Bozak on the team's top line. Coach Ron Wilson already experimented with that, with limited results.

    Right now I'm giving this a draw. Half of my prediction could come true, half of it will not.


6. Dion Phaneuf Returns to His 40-Point Form and Anchors Leafs Defense

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    Currently with 28 points in 42 games, Phaneuf is well on his way to a wonderful season.

    Some may argue he's nearing a Norris Trophy nomination if the Leafs manage to make their way back to the playoffs.

    On pace for more than 55 points this season, only Shea Weber, Erik Karlsson, Brian Campbell, Alex Edler and Dennis Wideman (who is Washington's version of Mike Green, apparently) have more points than Phaneuf this season.

    It's a welcome site to see Phaneuf back playing like he used to in Calgary.


7. Jonas Gustavsson Has a Better Statistical Year Than James Reimer

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    Jonas Gustavsson is single-handedly the reason Toronto has survived this season without the services of their supposed No. 1 goalie James Reimer.

    After Reimer began the season on fire, he was elbowed by Habs captain Brian Gionta and hasn't been the same since.

    After returning from over six weeks off, Reimer has looked like Swiss cheese in the Leafs net, and Gustavsson saw his opportunity and ran with it.

    Reimer is 7-4-4 with a 3.01 GAA and a .900 SV%, nothing to really write home about.

    Gustavsson's numbers aren't much better, but he's winning, that's the main thing.

    Sitting at 13-7 a 2.91 GAA and a .908 SV% to go along with one more shutout than Reimer, Gustavsson right now is the Leafs number one netminder.

    His euphoric rise has brought back memories of what James Reimer did at this time one year ago.


8. The Maple Leafs Will Miss the Playoffs by 2 Points

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    This prediction of course is still ongoing.

    However, it's the one prediction I hoped down the line would not come true.

    So far so good, as the Leafs sit firmly in sixth in the NHL's Eastern Conference.

    Back then, I predicted teams like Washington, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Buffalo to be in the playoffs, but four and a half months later, teams such as Toronto, Florida, New Jersey and Ottawa have surprised everyone and remain in a playoff spot.

    I'll call this a failed prediction, and hopefully, Leafs fans, it stays as a failed prediction.