The Toronto Maple Leafs are having a very eventful early summer. They won the NHL Draft Lottery, which granted them the right to select first overall. There are some true talents available including Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi. The Maple Leafs will most likely select Matthews, the bonafide pivot that they have been searching for since Mats Sundin left.
The Buds also have a number of players in the IIHF World Championships to watch. Morgan Rielly and Canada will face the Americans and Matthews in the semifinals. On the other side, Leo Komarov will be representing Finland against newly signed Leafs defenseman, Nikita Zaitsev, and the Russians.
The American Hockey League has the Toronto Marlies, the ultra impressive regular season team that is onto the third round of the postseason with series wins against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Albany Devils. Standing in their way of competing for the Calder Cup is the Hershey Bears.
The summer is young and many are already thinking ahead to the 2016-17 season. It’s a big year for the Maple Leafs with many huge events planned. The team is also in an interesting predicament. What can we expect?
Maple Leafs 2015-16 Season
The expectations for this year were extremely clear. They Maple Leafs needed to bottom out and get the first overall pick. Check. They needed to move out the contracts of older players to secure draft picks and prospects for the future. They were able to do that in spades.
— NHL (@NHL) March 20, 2016
The final hurdle was to give the organization’s younger players some valuable time with the big club. William Nylander, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov, Connor Carrick and many more were all brought up to play. They all had very impressive tenures with the Leafs and more than a few showed glimpses of excellent potential that could see them become NHL regulars as early as next year.
It was essentially the perfect season for the Leafs. Everything went right as they head into the draft and free agency. There will still be more moves to analyze once those dates come around, but for now, the team has covered all the bases.
Maple Leafs 2016-17 Season
Brendan Shanahan, Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello have played their cards close to their chest. They know that there is still pain coming in the future. They indicated as such when they were first hired and despite the good fortune of the club in recent months, this has not changed.
Some have floated around the idea of the Maple Leafs making the playoffs next year. While this would no doubt be extremely satisfying, I think that fans should temper their expectations and not make this their end goal. I think a more reasonable finish would involve the team finishing near the bottom of the standings, where they would be treated to another high pick.
It’s all about the rebuild. Toronto is finally on the right track with the franchise and there’s no need to rush. It’s only really a year in and they have already acquired some great pieces to build around. Nylander, Mitch Marner and the soon to be Leaf, Matthews, will make for a deadly core upfront.
— NHL EXPERT PICKS (@NHLexpertpicks) May 19, 2016
Rielly will be the anchor on the blue line and with any luck, the Leafs will be adding some more pieces to help solidify their backend and goaltending in the near future.
Fans of this team have done so much waiting for success. They suffered through the eras of Brian Burke, Randy Carlyle and Ron Wilson, where so much was promised, but so little delivered. The key now is simply to be patient. The team is being built and managed the right way finally.
If you want to build a winner, you need to be smart, diligent and patient. Those are the keys.