Will the Toronto Maple Leafs Make the Playoffs in 2012?

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James Reimer

Will James Reimer be able to backstop the Leafs to the playoffs in 2012? (Icon SMI)

Everyone knows all about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ struggles since 1967. Most notably, the Leafs have failed to win a Stanley Cup since then, making them the laughing-stock of the NHL to fans; Canadian fans in particular.

The Leafs’ 44-year Cup drought though, makes the team’s most recent run of poor performances look like nothing. That is, of course, the Leafs’ six-year playoff absence.

However, taking things one step at a time, the Leafs must set their sights on the playoffs.

Heading into the 2010 training camp, I predicted that when the 2010-2011 regular season was all said and done, the Leafs would sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, meaning they would make the playoffs. Obviously, I was wrong.

The Leafs struggled for much of the regular season, that is until the arrival of James Reimer.

Last season, at the age of 22, Reimer was called up to the big club. He made his first start on New Year’s Day in Ottawa; a 5-1 road win against the Senators. The Morweena, Manitoba native didn’t look back from there, as he went 20-10-5 with a goals against average of 2.60 and a save percentage of .921, putting the rookie right up there with some of the best NHL goalies.

Other players who were up there with some of the best include Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski. The latter two played so well that they managed to crush their previous career highs in goals, assists and points. Combined, the trio contributed 91 goals and 179 points.

Throw Clarke MacArthur on the wing beside Grabovski and Kulemin, and you have a high-energy scoring line that surprised many last season.

Dion Phaneuf improved his play after Tomas Kaberle left last season (Icon SMI)

Other players that largely contributed to the Leafs’ success down the stretch run include captain Dion Phaneuf, wingers Colby Armstrong and Joffrey Lupul, as well as minor-league call-ups Joey Crabb and Darryl Boyce.

However, as everyone knows, a team that failed to make the post season the previous year will repeat their performance unless they grow. So now, the question is, have the Maple Leafs grown and developed enough to make the playoffs?

Remember, when talking about a team, growing doesn’t just mean the players become better and the team has more experience. Instead, one way that the Leafs have grown is by adding veterans and young talent to their roster, in Tim Connolly, Cody Franson and John Michael Liles.

Connolly, who will sport number 12 with the Leafs, is a former 65-point play maker. There is very little doubt that he will be able to repeat those statistics if he plays in a full season of 75 or more games, possibly even helping Kessel reach 40 goals.

The problem there though, is that one word: “if.”

Since the 2004-2005 lockout, Connolly has played in more than 70 games once, and has played in just 302 of a possible 492 games. Much of the time he has missed is due to various injuries. From concussions, to hip and back injuries, Connolly has experienced it all.

But the Leafs do have good depth at centre, meaning if Connolly goes down, there might be a perfect opportunity for either Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne, both of whom are talented players who can put up points.

Where the Leafs have the most depth, though, is on defence. More than nine defencemen will compete for six spots, meaning the Leafs have multiple NHL-calibre defencemen that will not end up on the roster to start the season.

Mike Komisarek, Jeff Finger and Matt Lashoff are just three names that might not be listed on the Leafs’ lineup card come October 6, but could still be very useful when called upon.

While depth is always very useful, perhaps the most useful thing is having players on your team who care enough to go down and block shots when the game is on the line, or step up to fight a heavyweight just to get your team going again.

Last year, the Leafs had one of those heart and soul guys.

Who will it be this year? Colton Orr, Mike Brown and Colby Armstrong all showed that they aren’t afraid to step up for their team, but they were plagued by injury last season. I would expect to see all three play very competitively during the entire season, bringing good things to the Leafs.

With depth and talent on defence, as well as a developing netminder who has already posted outstanding statistics and a good group of guys who are willing to stand up for their team, the Leafs have certainly grown enough to make the playoffs.

But still, the question must be asked: Will the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs in 2012?

For a second consecutive year, my answer is yes.

Every playoff team must have exactly what is listed above and the Leafs possess all of it.

Also, after coming close to the playoffs last season thanks to a team effort, there is no reason to think that the Leafs can’t pull it off with an improved squad.

Twitter: @LukasHardonk | Email: lukas.hardonk@gmail.com | Lukas’ archive

Check out Lukas’ 2011 Toronto Maple Leafs Off-Season Guide.

Lukas Hardonk

Lukas Hardonk

Contributing Editor at The Hockey Writers
Lukas, a student at the University of Ottawa, covers the Toronto Maple Leafs on a part-time basis for The Hockey Writers. Contact Lukas at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter, @LukasHardonk.
Lukas Hardonk
Chara's injury is a great example of how important one player can be to an entire team's hopes: http://t.co/pzku7adDG1 #Bruins - 18 hours ago
Lukas Hardonk

15 Comments

  1. Avery-Stanley7898668 says:

    when they get loungo and nash the leafs will be a shoe in for the playoffs

  2. Matthew J A Russell says:

     I predicted a 10th place conference finish at the beginning of the year. I also made bets with like 5 different people that they wouldn’t make the playoffs. unless some kind of miracle happens, looks like i’m in the money. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs next year either.

  3. Fan Since 69 says:

    Toronto will never have a chance at winning until money is invested in good players and coaching staff  . As long as we as fans continue to support them as a losing team then things will never change. YOU KNOW THE SAYING IF IT WORKS WHY FIX IT. Well Toronto is still making big bucks and not losing its fan club. How long do you think we will support this…for god sakes give back to the fans and start turning this team into winners !!!!

  4. I have heard it all over the last 44 yrs .I have been a leaf fan all my life and i must say that this is the first time that I want to jump ship . This team has been rebuilding all these yrs and have not improved at all lets c kessel dont check , or for check , that is suppose to be your key figure, the best player on the ice is gravockey  ….. they couldnt win under wilson and sad to say they are not winning under Carlyl .SO what gives when they go to change a shift they look wiped ,cant play back to back games , then at the trade deadline what do they do nothing come on ,the goaltenders couldnt stop a beach ball us as leaf fans are appaulled at this ……..

  5. burke don’t like the dead line to much presure so he’s going to have
    he’s own around christmas if the fans are lucky mabe the owners
    will give burke walking papers….grass will soon be green

  6. Hey Lukas, doesn’t look too good again this year. Leafs will have to win 13 of remaining 19 games to make the playoffs. If they keep playing like they have been in February, they’ll be out of the hunt before March is over. GOLF LEAF GOLF!

    • Thats not correct as there are other factors like the record of the 4 teams in front of them.

      • 4 teams ahead of the leafs for the final playoff spot. I admire your optimism but we (leafs fans) don’t stand a chance. Get the clubs out already. 

  7. leafs dont make playoffs this year fans are going too stop watching.

  8. i think fans are leafs biggest problem ….stay out of stadium if not donuts don’t cost to much
    show your displeasure all over the ice mabe burkie will open his eyes or mabe not come on
    fans make some noise

  9. I am still confused why timmy brent isnt a leaf anymore.. he earned his spot this year sacrificing his body, and that shows heart and love for the team. burke is crazy for overlooking that and along with reimer, brent played a huge part in their playoff run. that being said, buffalo is going to be a powerhouse this year, boston is still confident from the cup, and the habs seem to always be in. so playoffs look doubtfull guys. if the leafs are gunna play hockey next spring, they have to win most of their divisional games. and thats no easy task

  10. they will they only missed this year cause buffalo was hot the last 10 games very improved connoly kessel lupul is a great line speed skill lupul is gritty this is gonna be kessels break out year

  11. One of the many recurring rpoblems the last while has been goaltending. If Reimer is the goalie we saw down the stretch they should be fine, if he’s Raycroft 2.0 then they’ll be on the outside looking in again

    • The leafs got exactly what they thought they would get with Raycroft. They were hoping that he would return to his old numbers, but they had no reason to suspect that. If Pogge had been traded instead of Rask no one would be complaining right now.

  12. The issue for me is not whether the Leafs have what they need, it’s more about if there are 7 other teams in the East who don’t.

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