The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a good season so far. After struggling to start the season, which seems like a tradition at this point, they have picked up their play enough have a record of 11-10-5. For the most part, they have been closer to a playoff spot than the basement of the Eastern Conference. That has changed in the past few games.
The Leafs currently sit with 27 points, which is good for the 14th spot in the East. Only two teams sit behind them in the standings, the New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres. So are those teams just bad? The answer is no. Look at their records in the last ten games. The Leafs are 4-4-2 while the Sabres are 5-3-2. The Islanders have the best record of the three and are a pretty hot team right now at 6-3-1. So why are they at the bottom of the standings?
The NHL has finally seemed to reach a measure of parity this season. In the Eastern Conference, the last place team is six points out of a playoff spot. In the West, the last place Colorado Avalanche are nine points out. Even though it’s still relatively early in the season, it’s pretty good that a lot of teams still have a shot at making the playoffs.
For the Leafs, what do they need to do to make a run? The easy answer that every Leafs fan knows is that they need to upgrade their defense. One look at how many games the Leafs have lost after giving up a lead in the third period. It’s no surprise that whenever a defenseman has been rumored to be available, the Leafs have inevitably been connected to them in some way. It’s already happened with Calgary’s Dougie Hamilton and don’t be surprised when Kevin Shattenkirk to Toronto rumors start up if he doesn’t re-sign in St. Louis by the Trade Deadline.
They also need to fix their backup goaltending situation. Jhonas Enroth hasn’t worked out in the eyes of the Leafs and his potential replacement Karri Ramo hasn’t looked well playing on a try-out contract. This has led to Antoine Bibeau getting his first NHL start on Sunday against Colorado. It’s not the biggest issue, but if Frederik Andersen gets hurt, the Leafs will be in trouble.
Not Getting What You Deserve
The Leafs deserve to be in a better spot than they are in the standings. The good news is that they have a chance to climb in the next month or so. They play the Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes, the worst two teams in the NHL, two times in the next two weeks. On top of that, they play their next five games at the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs are 8-4-0 at home so far. If the Leafs can take advantage of home ice, they might be in a better spot by the next time they are on the road.
The biggest key will be the road trip they embark on after the home stand. With the World Juniors taking over the ACC, the Leafs will play six of seven games on the road starting on December 22. The one game at home isn’t even at the ACC. The Leafs will play the Detroit Red Wings on New Year’s Day in the Centennial Classic (even though we all know it’s the true Winter Classic) to celebrate 100 years of the Maple Leafs and the NHL.
So don’t fret about the Leafs spot in the standings, not yet anyway. Give it until the end of January. If the Leafs are still in the same spot then, that will be cause for concern.