Toronto Maple Leafs: The Five Most Important Dates in the Upcoming Season

Joseph Trenton@@TrentonNHLCFLAnalyst IIIMay 22, 2012

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Five Most Important Dates in the Upcoming Season

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    In the upcoming Toronto Maple Leafs season, there are five can't miss moments to mark on your calendar. Any of the five dates can significantly impact the current Leafs team and make a difference into the future.

    Brian Burke and Dave Nonis will be front and center on the issues related to to the team, and management must be prepared for the uncertainties that are coming.

    Let's take a look at the five important dates in the upcoming Maple Leafs season.

1. 2012 NHL Draft: June 22 and 23

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    The 2012 NHL Draft will take place on June 22 and 23 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

    This marks a very important date for the Toronto Maple Leafs in terms of their future and it could also impact their current roster if Brian Burke decides to make any kind of changes to his draft positioning or player personnel.

    There is almost no question that Burke will be busy speaking with many other teams about the possibilities of trading up from No. 5 overall, where the Leafs currently sit. If there is also a package that could convince him to trade down and add a piece, then Burke will listen.

    The Maple Leafs need to address their goaltending, top line C, and also make their defense more reliable inside their own zone. If possible, Burke also wants to add roster players with size through trades or free agent signings. He will know what other teams have to offer as the NHL Draft approaches.

2. 2012 NHL Free Agency: July 1

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    NHL free agency is most likely the moment when the Maple Leafs will make a move to address the issues of size, toughness and skill.

    Brian Burke said at the year-end press conference that he will tackle these issues at the free agency period, and not at the draft.

    Other than finding players with size and toughness, the Leafs may also take a close look at some of the high-end skilled players that may become UFAs such as Alexander Semin, Zach Parise and Kristian Huselius.

    Without a lot of cap space, the Maple Leafs may be looking to pull a few trades before they make a big splash in the free agency market on July 1.

3. 2012-13 Regular Season Opener

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    Toronto Maple Leafs fans know this very well: it is absolutely critical to start the season on a high note in order to have a chance at making the playoffs.

    The Leafs have seen their team struggle mightily out of the gate for many years, make a strong push at the middle of the season and eventually fall just short of a playoff berth. Last year they saw what a strong start could do for them, even though the Leafs failed to play anywhere close to the same level near the final stretch of the regular season.

    It is still unknown what that date will be, but another strong start will be very important for the Leafs, and everything will begin with their season debut.

4. 2013 NHL Trade Deadline

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    The NHL trade deadline is another big day that could change the makeup of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Depending on where the Leafs are in the Eastern Conference standings, Brian Burke may approach the trade deadline differently; however, the idea of the deadline is to get prepared for the rest of the season and the playoffs for contending teams.

    If the Leafs are not in the thick of race on that date, Burke may be forced to make some changes to rebound from another tough season.

    In 2012, the Maple Leafs were in discussion with the Columbus Blue Jackets about Rick Nash. Perhaps in 2013 they will have their sights on another game-changing player.

5. 2012-13 Playoffs Opener

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    The date when the NHL playoffs arrive in 2013 is very important to Toronto.

    There are two scenarios that could play out on that day:

    a) The Maple Leafs successfully enter the postseason for the first time since 2004, and the Leafs Nation becomes absolutely crazy at the Air Canada Center and around Southern Ontario. It will almost be like winning the Stanley Cup without having the trophy awarded.

    b) The Maple Leafs unfortunately miss the playoffs again for the eighth straight season, and the ownership group may look at other options in their management team. Brian Burke and Dave Nonis could be on the hot seat around that time of the year.

    Either way, the 2013 playoff opener is an extremely big day for Toronto, and we will find out what kind of ending there is for the upcoming season.

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