Predicting the Statistical Leaders for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014-15
While the Toronto Maple Leafs will introduce a number of new faces to their fans this fall, the usual suspects are likely to be the statistical leaders in 2014-15.
The Leafs should be a strong offensive team with more balanced scoring from at least three lines and a number of defensemen capable of scoring 30-40 points.
Don't be surprised if some young skaters push the established veterans for some of the team titles.
Let's take a look at who will be the Maple Leafs' statistical leaders in some of key categories for the 2014-15 season.
Goals: Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel led the Leafs in goal scoring last season; don't expect that to change in 2014-15.
The only difference might be the margin of victory. In 2013-14, Kessel scored 37 times while the next best Leaf was linemate James van Riemsdyk with 30.
Kessel might score 40-plus this season, but the maturing JVR could break the 35-goal barrier. He should put some heat on the talented Kessel in this department.
Joffrey Lupul is always a threat to lead the team in goal scoring, but injuries seem to be a chronic issue for the former Medicine Hat Tigers sniper.
If all things go well for Kessel, he might even challenge for the Maurice Richard Trophy that's awarded annually to the top goal scorer in the NHL.
Assists: Phil Kessel
It's bordering on another no-brainer to predict Kessel in this category, but the Leafs' top two centres could be threats here.
Kessel had 43 assists in 2013-14, while JVR earned 31. Tyler Bozak had 30 assists, but it was in only 58 games. If he can stay healthy, it wouldn't be shocking to see Bozak post 45 helpers in 2014-15.
The dark horse here could be Nazem Kadri. If Kadri gets some significant first-line minutes, along with more ice time in general, he could post 40-plus assists. He's a gifted playmaker with speed and above-average vision.
If all three of these players can contribute with more than 40 assists each, expect the Leafs to be right in the middle of the playoff race.
Plus/Minus: Jake Gardiner
The plus/minus winner is my upset special for 2014-15. While Dion Phaneuf, Stephane Robidas and Tyler Bozak should have some relatively good numbers here, expect Gardiner to make a big jump in this category.
Carl Gunnarsson led the team in plus/minus last season with a plus-12 rating. He's no longer in Toronto, so expect some of his tough minutes to be picked up by newly acquired veterans Robidas and Roman Polak.
Gardiner will also get more defensive responsibilities. However, expect him to also get more offensive opportunities, both at even strength and on the power play. Gardiner could lead the Leafs' defense corps in scoring in 2014-15.
Combined with some better defensive play by the entire team, including the continuing maturation in Gardiner's overall play, he could see his plus/minus number jump from a minus to a double-digit plus.
Penalty Minutes: David Clarkson
David Clarkson's first season in Toronto could not have gone much worse. He earned an early suspension, never got on track offensively and had little impact in most games.
That should change in 2014-15. Clarkson will be motivated to change the perception by most that his career numbers were inflated by his New Jersey Devils teammates and the Devils' defensive system.
Expect Clarkson to bring a lot of energy to the ice on every shift. This will result in more penalty minutes, as he's likely to be overzealous in this department for much of the season.
While captain Dion Phaneuf may challenge Clarkson for this title (Phaneuf won it last year), expect the former Calgary Flames star to play more within himself.
With the addition of two veteran defenders who will help provide further leadership for the club, Phaneuf shouldn't have to try and be all things at all times.
Points: Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel won the Leafs' scoring title by almost 20 points in 2013-14. Expect him to score 80-plus points in 2014-15, with no other Leaf generating over 75 points.
JVR and Bozak could break the 70-point mark. The mercurial Kadri is also talented enough to do so, but he many not see enough ice time to do it this season.
It would not be shocking to see Bozak have a breakout season offensively given the talent level of Kessel and JVR, his regular linemates. This trio will be counted on to dominate other teams offensively.
Expect nothing less from them this season, with Kessel leading the way here once again.
All stats can be found on NHL.com unless noted otherwise.