After a one-month hiatus, Leafs Daily is back and taking stock of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the All-Star break.
In our month off, we missed the James van Riemsdyk injury and a whole bunch of losing. My personal opinion is that the Leafs got a huge break when JVR went down, essentially making the team much worse and helping secure a top pick in the 2016 draft, which is the whole point of this season.
Since winning the first two games of the new year, the Leafs have gone 1-9 overall for a January record of 3-7-2. That is just eight of a possible 24 points. They have just 11 goals in their last 10 games. (Nazem Kadri has points on 5 of those 11 goals, by the way).
This would be cause for panic in a normal season, but the Leafs have to get themselves a top-five draft pick. This is perhaps a best-case scenario.
Should the Leafs get lucky and select Auston Matthews with the first overall pick, then next season they will be playing three of the best rookies the team has ever had, adding Matthews to the arrival of Mitch Marner and William Nylander. If you add in Kadri, Morgan Rielly, James Reimer and Jake Gardiner then suddenly the Leafs will be a team worth being excited about.
Even without Matthews, things are looking good.
Sure, the NHL season is a tough slog when a 30th place finish is the best outcome you can hope for, but there are reasons to be happy with the Leafs. In an effort to keep up our spirits, I’ll be introducing this new “Bright Spots” feature that (hopefully) makes it easier to watch the last 30 odd games of this terrible season.
No matter what way you look at it, Gardiner has gone from Leaf Nation’s whipping boy to perhaps its best player. While it’s subjective, certainly an argument can be made that Gardiner is forcing his way into the league’s elite defensemen.
The Leafs are in Boston on Tuesday, host the Devils on Thursday and then head to Ottawa on Saturday. As bad as they’ve been to watch lately, I have to say, if this All-Star break has taught me anything, it’s that bad hockey is better than no hockey.
Seriously, I have been so bored since Wednesday.
Tomorrow I’ll be back with my thoughts for the trade deadline.
Thanks for reading.
All stats via War on Ice.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.