Toronto Maple Leafs: 5 Things I Want from This Season
While I consider myself to be a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I would like to think that I'm a realistic one as well.
Being a Leafs fan isn't easy, but it seems as though the team is finally heading in the right direction.
This season could easily be the year the Leafs make the playoffs for the first time since the lockout and could also be one where young players begin to emerge as stars for the club. I still have plenty of optimism for this team, and with the season less than 10 weeks away, my hopes are still very high.
If Toronto continues its play from late in last season, this year could be filled with a lot of wins and good memories, two things that Leafs' fans have begun to forget.
Let's hope that some of these offseason wishes come true. Here are five things I'd like to see from the Maple Leafs this season.
Phil Kessel Scores 40 Goals
Ever since the trade that brought Kessel to Toronto, I've been undecided about my feelings toward it. As I stand currently, I'm not against Kessel, but I still believe he hasn't lived up to his potential.
Only three years ago, Kessel scored 36 goals for Boston in only 70 games. While he certainly isn't on the level of players like Stamkos and Ovechkin, Kessel definitely has the potential to be a solid goal scorer in this league.
I don't think asking for 40 goals from him is too much, considering that he could finally drop his reputation as the "worst of the best" since he was picked dead last in the All-Star game fantasy draft.
Scoring 40 would give Kessel a tremendous amount of confidence that he desperately needs to prove to himself that he's the No. 1 guy on this team. It would probably get him some more fans around the city too.
Tim Connolly Plays 75-Plus Games and Totals 50-Plus Points
These are two very important things that all of Leafs Nation is hoping for from their new top line center: don't get injured and feed Phil the puck.
Many fans are worried about Connolly because he hasn't played 80 games in a season since 2002-03 and if he can even produce if he manages to play that much.
In order for his signing to be worthwhile, I'd like to see Tim give the fans both of those wishes. Even if his 50 points are all assists, I'd still be happy (see slide one).
John Michael Liles Helps the Power Play
Toronto was third in the league in power play opportunities last season with 326 but scored only 52 times giving them a total efficiency rate of 16 percent which was good enough for 22nd overall.
In short, that's not how you make the playoffs.
JML was brought to the TML to bolster the blue line but also to quarterback the power play when Phaneuf needs a line change or in tandem with the big captain.
Even though Colorado was considerably worse than Toronto last year, they still had a better power play. Hopefully Liles will bring that north of the border with him.
Play More Defensive Hockey
While Toronto did finish with I would still consider a winning record of 37-34-11, they were still outscored by opponents 245-213 on the season. Not only that, but there were only six members of the entire Leafs roster who finished the season with a positive plus-minus.
That being said, not only do the actual defensemen need to up their game this year, but the entire Leafs team needs to play more defensively. If they can win most of their games even after being outscored in general, then playing more defensive hockey could mean many more wins.
Kessel and Bozak finishing with ratings of minus-20 and minus-29 respectively is not going to cut it.
With Giguere Gone, Reimer Needs to Be an Elite Goaltender
If you don't think that Reimer can be one of the best in the league, here's a little breakdown of why you should.
Cam Ward, one of the top goalies in the NHL, played 74 games last year, more than any other goalie. He won 37 of those games giving him a 50 percent winning percentage.
Reimer, a rookie suiting up in the pressure-filled city of Toronto, played exactly half the games that Ward did, and won 20 of them, giving him a 54 percent winning percentage.
I hope that after being given the starting job, Reimer will continue his solid play from last season and be a big reason in the Leafs' return to the playoffs.
Optimus Reim does have what it takes to be a great goalie and a 35-plus win season from him will not only help him prove that to himself, but he will prove it to the Leafs Nation as well.