5 Keys to Toronto Maple Leafs 2014-15 season

Oct 8, 2014 by

5 Keys to Toronto Maple Leafs 2014-15 season

Aside from some relatively minor moves in the off-season this year’s version of the Maple Leafs offers no significant difference to last year’s club.  Weakness in the centre position still has not been addressed and it’s too early to say whether or not the changes to the backend has measurably improved the defence. Phil Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk (JVR) can likely be counted on to have strong scoring seasons but the secondary scoring on this team is a big question mark. Joffrey Lupul, when healthy, has proven he can be an impact player, but can he go without getting injured for a prolonged period? Additionally, its vital Nazm Kadri takes a significant step in his development and become a consistent contributor on both sides of the ice. The bottom six forwards is the real unknown and might be the real wild card this year. Bringing back Leo Komarov and adding Mike Santorelli will add some much needed grit and speed, but the real key is David Clarkson returning to form. Clarkson must make a regular impact if the Maple Leafs should make the playoffs this year. Breaking his orbital bone during exhibition was not a good start and for Leafs fans hopefully not an omen for things to come.

All in all there a lot of things that must go perfectly for this team to just make the playoffs. That’s all they are though, a borderline playoff team with more question marks than certainties. Nonetheless, they are a young team with some promise and it will be interesting to see how players like Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner develop. Along with Jonathan Bernier, they represent the backbone of the future success of the Maple Leafs. Dion Phaneuf may be the Captain and currently the number one defenceman but by the time the Maple Leafs are ready to contend he will probably better serve the team as either the 2nd or 3rd best defenceman on the team. Rather than get too far ahead of ourselves lets enjoy the fact hockey is finally back and focus on the five keys to this team’s success for the 2014-15 season.


5.  Kessel and JVR have to perform as expected

As Maple Leafs, both players have been consistent producers and may even still have upside potential.  Kessel has the potential to score fifty and JVR could get into the forty range, but its hard envisioning that type of production without a bona-fide number one centre. Nonetheless, they should combine to score 70+ goals which will be needed if the Leafs have any chance to succeed this year.

4.  Clarkson must return to form

It seems every few years the Maple Leafs overpay a free-agent to a lengthy contract and that player fails to perform to the level expected. Clarkson was that guy last year, but he is signed through 2020 and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He has to play the Wendel Clark style game he models himself after by playing a physical game that includes the odd fight and scoring 20+ goals. He needs to elevate his game this year and be the leader among the bottom six forwards and occasionally be able to sub-in the top six.

3.  Young players must take another step in their development

Kadri, Reilly, and Gardiner are the key young players that must show they are capable of playing a bigger role this year. If these players make significant strides a playoff position is a realistic goal and bodes well for the future of the franchise. This is an especially important season for Kadri as he enters the final year of his contract. He is a highly skilled and offensively talented player, but he needs to be more consistent and productive in order to prove that he warrants a long-term extension. Gardiner and Reilly are likely going to be household names for years to come on the back-end. What will be most interesting is to see which one progresses quicker and becomes the future number one defenceman.

2.  Secondary scoring

In my opinion Joffrey Lupul is the main forward to watch. He must stay healthy, score 25+ goals and be a team leader. He has proven he is capable he just has to stay on the ice. Additionally, David Booth and Santorelli could provide a boost in scoring. Diminutive rookie Branden Kozun surprised many by making the Maple Leafs opening day roster by excelling in the preseason and could be one to watch, but it’s far too early to consider him a legit threat.

1.  Top notch goaltending

The defence should improve this year with the additions of Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak to help stabilize the back-end; however, Jonathan Bernier is the true anchor of the defence and number one key to the Maple Leafs success this year. Arguably one could say that if he had not been injured last year the team would have made the playoffs. He looks to be emerging into one of the top goalies in the league and must play 50+ games this year. If he continues to develop and stay healthy the Maple Leafs will be in contention to make the playoffs this year. Absent that, the team will likely have another year in the lottery draft.

A lot of ifs and buts need to happen in order for the Maple Leafs to make the playoffs this year, but they should contend for one of the final few spots – at least Leafland should hope as much.

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