Toronto Maple Leafs: 7 Bold Predictions for the 2012-13 Season
Nothing appears to be happening right now as far as the Leafs are concerned, so it's the perfect time to make stuff up and talk about it.
Last August, I published my "7 Bold Predictions for the [Leafs'] 2011-12 Season". If you could use a laugh, head on over there to see what I got right and what I got less right.
I went one-for-seven on that one—let's see if I can do better this time.
Here are seven bold Leaf predictions for the 2012-13 season.
Reimer Wins 30 Games
The Toronto Maple Leafs will not go after Roberto Luongo (too expensive, doesn't want to play in Toronto), Jonathan Bernier (sideways move that would cost valuable assets) or Cristobal Huet (would take roster spot away from a deserving Ben Scrivens).
Therefore, it will be James "Real Deal" Reimer and Scrivens in net for the Leafs.
Reimer will be the undisputed starter for the entire year.
He'll play about 60 games and win at least 30 of them.
That's a big jump from the 2010-11 season when he won a career-high 20 games and played a career-high of 37 games.
However, as long as Brian Gionta stays away from him, Reimer will get there.
Leafs Kill 80 Percent of Their Penalties
The Leafs' PK was 28th in the NHL last season with a 77.3 percent kill rate.
This year, with the help of newcomer Jay McClement and a full season under head coach Randy Carlyle, they'll inch towards respectability in that department.
At 80 percent efficiency, they would've been 25th in the league last year.
That's looking mighty good right now, considering their PK has been in the league's bottom three for the past five seasons.
Matt Frattin Scores 20 Goals
Matt Frattin plays a similar game to Nikolai Kulemin and that's a good thing.
The former is a little tougher, a little more physical and a little more reckless, but both love driving to the net to score those dirty goals.
That's how many of Kulemin's 30 goals during the 2010-11 season materialized.
Frattin recently signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Leafs, meaning he's going to be with the big club on a full-time basis.
The Leafs have a number of top-nine wingers (like the guy in the next slide) they'd be willing to move in order to make room for Frattin.
During the 2011-12 Calder Cup playoffs, Frattin had 10 goals (tops in the AHL) and 13 points in 13 games for the Toronto Marlies.
He hurt himself scoring that tenth goal (an empty netter) and might not be back in time for training camp.
He'll still manage to pot 20 goals in however many games he ends up playing. You can toss in 15-20 assists to go with that.
Clarke MacArthur's Gone by Trade Deadline
Stallone. Willis. Schwarzenegger. MacArthur.
Clarke MacArthur isn't tough, isn't that fast and isn't overly skilled.
He's a good player who can be relied upon for 50-60 points. In short, he's expendable (see what I did there?).
Roster spots need to be opened up for Matt Frattin and Nazem Kadri.
As much as Leaf fans would like to get rid of Tim Connolly and/or Matthew Lombardi instead of MacArthur, it's unlikely for a number of reasons.
A big reason is that he's the only one other teams would actually want.
So whether it's in September or in late February, look for MacArthur to be traded.
Leafs Finish Third in the Northeast Division
Last year, the final Northeast Division standings were as follows:
Boston Bruins — 102 points
Ottawa Senators — 92 points
Buffalo Sabres — 89 points
Toronto Maple Leafs — 80 points
Montreal Canadiens — 78 points
This year, the Leafs and Sabres will switch spots.
Both teams made significant moves recently; the Leafs recently gave up Luke Schenn for James van Riemsdyk while the Sabres recently traded Derek Roy for Adam Pardy and Steve Ott.
Aside from that, their respective rosters are largely unchanged from last year.
So why will the Leafs do better this year?
Because goaltending aside, the Leafs are a better team overall.
Before you say give me a retort, I'd like to point out two things:
1) The Leafs never seem to play as well as they should. In other words, the on-ice product is always inferior to the on-paper lineup.
2) The other NE division teams (minus Montreal) always seem to play with more heart than the Leafs, which is partly why they always seem to do better, even when they don't necessarily have a better group.
Morgan Rielly Makes the Jump
Defenseman Morgan Rielly turned heads at the Leafs' prospect camp last month.
He isn't expected to make the Leafs out of camp, but given how smart he is, it could be less than a calendar year before he makes it to the big club.
He is arguably the best prospect in the entire organization right now and it's entirely possible he'll surprise everyone with how fast his professional game progresses.
Sometime over the course of the 2012-13 season, Rielly will make the jump to the big club and will never have to look back.
Brian Burke Keeps His Job
Leafs GM Brian Burke is entering year five of his six-year contract with the organization.
Rogers and Bell will care a lot more about winning than the teachers ever did, so if Burke doesn't deliver a playoff team this year, it's very possible it'll be his last season as GM.
He will deliver a playoff team this year and he can do it without pulling off any more big trades (though it wouldn't hurt).
The Leafs have the talent—they just need to play with more heart.
Here's an interesting piece from Howard Berger on Mike Komisarek:
Say what you will about Komisarek (or Berger, for that matter), but many of his teammates need to learn to hate losing as much as he does.