Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Bruins, Canadiens & Senators

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the oddities of the season past and add some notes about the season to come. The 2021-22 regular season was an odd one, with many teams setting regular-season franchise records for wins and points.

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As well, this offseason has also been odd. Maple Leafs’ fans have seemed to be pitted more against each other than they have been pitted against (and I mean pitted against not in any nasty way) fans of other teams. Rivalries are in the nature of sports, but it’s taken a bit of a turn thinking about the Maple Leafs this offseason.

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How will all this work out? Training camp starts soon.

Item One: How Good Will Boston and Montreal Be?

In looking ahead at the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, it’s easy to see there have been some changes. Although the news today is that the Boston Bruins re-signed both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci (after a season playing at home in the Czech Republic) for next season, Brad Marchand will be out for a few months. With the coaching change, that team’s performance might be in question. 

David Pastrnak Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins David Krejci re-signed. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The Montreal Canadiens’ play picked up a bit last season when Martin St. Louis became the coach, and he will be back. Can they continue to improve? They seem to be on the right track and their young stars are maturing.

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The team that might surprise is the Ottawa Senators. They’ve seemed to have improved the most. Alex DeBrincat’s trade to the Senators was great for them. The team’s core players are getting more solid. Can they push someone out of a playoff spot? 

Item Two: It Was a Funny Season in 2021-22

Regular The Hockey Writers’ reader and commenter “nor” added some interesting facts to the Conversation Section of a recent post. I found these notes both insightful and I had no explanation for them. 

nor noted that last regular season the Maple Leafs set a franchise record in points and wins. That, nor suggested, is a great accomplishment. However, nor also pointed out an odd statistic. The Carolina Hurricanes also finished with a franchise high 116 points. At the same time, the Florida Panthers also finished with a franchise high 122 points. 

Frederik Andersen Toronto Maple Leafs
Frederik Andersen, former Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie, helped Carolina to a franchise record in points (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In the West, the Colorado Avalanche also set a franchise high 119 points. The Minnesota Wild also set a franchise high in points with 113. 

Although these are not franchise highs, the Calgary Flames had 111 points (their second highest point total ever). The New York Rangers set their third highest point total with 110. Finally, the St. Louis Blues set their third-highest point total of 109 points. 

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In fact, as nor points out, of the 16 playoff teams, 13 of them had 100 or more points. nor wonders if these teams are that good or if non-playoff teams just were that bad? nor (as I do) finds it unusual that so many teams set franchise records at the same time. Any thoughts from other readers?

Item Three: Maple Leafs’ Show Unwillingness to Sign Players Over Value

Although Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas has been critiqued for overpaying players, this season the organization has shown a regular unwillingness to sign players for more than it’s believed they are worth. Many fans don’t agree with the players the Maple Leafs have allowed to walk, but the organization can’t be accused of signing everyone to outrageous contracts.

Ilya Mikheyev Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Mikheyev, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This season, Ilya Mikheyev, Ondrej Kase,  and Jack Campbell were allowed to move on. Last season, it was Zach Hyman. I know many fans have criticized Dubas for allowing Hyman to leave and pointing to his career season with the Edmonton Oilers; however, it isn’t the first seasons of Hyman’s contracts that are the problem. It’s the last few seasons where the contract seems highly overpaid.

It’s the same issue that fans now have with John Tavares. His contract looked considerably different during his first seasons with the team than it does now that he’s aging. That likely was the issue with signing Jack Campbell, as well.

What I know for sure is that making choices about who comes and goes from a team is well past my paygrade. I fear I would be horrible at it. Like him or not, Dubas (and other NHL general managers) have very difficult jobs.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

One thing that is so great about sport is that there are rivals. In hockey, the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens have been archrivals for many seasons. If you’re a fan of one team, you can’t possibly root for the other. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Rising Trade Values, Core Four & Rubins

In addition, some of the great series over the seasons have pitted these rivals against each other. The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames rivalry was great last postseason. Having bragging rights is a big part of being a fan. 

One reader commented that the players certainly pick up on these rivalries pretty quickly. My note yesterday about Nick Suzuki teasing Maple Leafs’ fans is just part of the “task” of any good fanbase. 

I’m looking forward to the season starting so that Maple Leafs’ fans will be pitted against their NHL rivals, instead of (it seems to me) against each other. It has been a funny offseason.