from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
What does a successful season look like for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
How about an unsuccessful one?
Two days into training camp, the latter is once again starting to pick up some steam. After all, the Leafs have major question marks in net. Two of their top-six defencemen are already out with injuries, while another is in a contract holdout. And based on the betting odds, both their general manager and head coach appear to be on borrowed time.
Forget about failing in the first round. Is there a chance that Toronto, which has qualified for the post-season for six straight years, might miss out on the playoffs entirely?
That might sound unrealistic — if not unfathomable — after the year the Leafs had last season, having finished with the fourth-best record in the NHL, with Auston Matthews leading the league in goals and Mitch Marner ranking 10th overall in points. Then again, a lot has changed since then. Not so much with Toronto, but rather with the teams around them.
With non-playoff teams, such as Ottawa, Detroit and possibly Buffalo, are all expected to make a major push for a playoff spot, the already tough Atlantic Division just got a whole lot tougher. Toronto, along with Florida, Tampa Bay and Boston, is still considered one of the favourites to grab one of the top-3 seeds. But a lot still has to go right for the Leafs to get into the playoffs. Or rather, a lot can’t go wrong.
And this year, there’s a lot that can go wrong.