Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner set up the game plan before the faceoff
Photo credit: NHL

Insider asks a shocking question about the Toronto Maple Leafs

Published January 15, 2024 at 11:38
BY MIKE ARMENTI

Coming into this season, following the signings of Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and others, many were wondering whether or not this was finally the year that the Leafs took a big step forward and became Atlantic Division juggernauts.

With the Tampa Bay Lightning on the decline, and Boston having just lost Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, it appeared to be the Leafs' time to really take hold of the division and run with it. Well, halfway through the season, the Leafs are in 3rd in the Atlantic and are at risk of slipping into a Wild Card position after blown leads in 3 consecutive games turned what appeared to be surefire wins into disappointing losses.

With the Leafs having coughed up 5 of a possible 6 points over their last 3 games, some are now wondering whether they'll make the playoffs at all. Detroit and Tampa now sit just 1 point back of the Leafs, with the Islanders, Devils and Penguins also pushing for Wild Card spots in the East. The race is on and the Leafs can't afford to be giving up points in the standings, least of all to a division rival.

On today's episode of 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman asked a very important question; "should this team really be buying?" By asking this question, Friedman is essentially wondering whether or not the Leafs are even a contender this season. To be honest, it's a fair question.


"Is this the year to buy? They wanted Nylander done and they got it done because they wanted to know that that bit of business is over. But still, they have to be asking themselves, 'with the limited amount of stuff that we have to trade, is this really the year to buy?', and I would be asking that question again this weekend."

32 Thoughts co-host Jeff Marek had a similar outlook.

"Don't be surprised if the Toronto Maple Leafs, come trade deadline don't do anything. Or if they do anything, it's not much, unlike other teams that are going to compete for the Stanley Cup."

Obviously, the Leafs can't continue to cough up points. That's number one. Also, with the type of pieces that the Leafs have to offer up in trades, including Fraser Minten, Easton Cowan, their 2024 and 2026 1st round picks... these are potentially very important pieces and if the Leafs can't pull it together in the regular season, why would GM Brad Treliving want to part with excellent pieces in order to help the Leafs maybe win 1 round?

The smarter choice at this point may be to wait it out this year and not add much, or anything, and see what the draft and free agency have in store instead of parting with good pieces now to make a mediocre team just slightly more than mediocre.

I can't blame Friedman for asking the question, because honestly, we haven't seen much of anything to indicate that the Leafs are one of the best teams in the league this year. The defense has been poor, the goaltending has been largely poor, and aside from Nylander, Matthews, Marner and Rielly, nobody else on the team is really going right now. The powerplay is not clicking like it did last season, the penalty kill is sketchy at best and the team is really not doing much to instill confidence, even when they build leads in a game. I'd rather them not mortgage the future on a hail mary at the deadline if it isn't going to mean guaranteeing a strong shot at a Stanley Cup, and this year, I just don't see it.
POLL
January 15   |   1273 answers
Insider asks a shocking question about the Toronto Maple Leafs

Are the Maple Leafs true Stanley Cup contenders or are they pretenders?

Contenders baby!1068.3 %
Definitely pretenders72757.1 %
One or two moves might be the difference44034.6 %
LIST OF POLL
Latest 10 stories