The Toronto Maple Leafs have been making headlines for many different reasons this season. It all started in the off season when they signed John Tavares to a 7 year/$77 million contract. Toronto has raised its expectations to that of Stanley Cup or bust going into this season.
This is Mike Babcock’s fourth season coaching the Maple Leafs, he will have four years remaining on his contract at the end of this season. They were horrendous in his first year as coach, but that was expected because Toronto didn’t have any talented players on their roster that season.
The Maple Leafs have made it to the postseason in each of the past two years and both times they were eliminated in the first-round. In 2016-2017, they lost to the Washington Capitals in six games as the second wild card team in the East. Last season, they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games as the number three seed in the Atlantic Division.
Toronto’s record last season was 49-26-7 with 105 points. With five games remaining in this regular season, they currently sit in third place again in the Atlantic Division with a 45-25-7 record with 97 points.
It seems that the Maple Leafs may have taken a small step backwards this season but they could still finish the season with over 100 points in the standings.
Toronto is tied with the New York Islanders for the 4th most points in the East, but they would have the second most points if they played in the Western Conference. That being said, they don’t and Toronto has to get through some powerhouse clubs in the East in order to reach their ultimate goal.
They will be under pressure to win at least a round or two in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this upcoming postseason. Toronto has not advanced to the second-round of the postseason since 2004 against the Ottawa Senators. They lost in the next round to the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games.
If the Maple Leafs don’t win at least one playoff series, General Manager Kyle Dubas might have an important decision to make. Babcock was not originally hired by him. Dubas might feel like they need a different boss behind the bench.
The reason why that might be the case is because even though they have been making it to the playoffs, they have not been advancing and taking their game to the next level.
Another problem with this team is that Babcock has an open system which exposes the defense. He is also running goalie Frederik Andersen into the ground which is also not good. If backup goalie Garret Sparks has to try and save them in the postseason, it could spell doomsday once again for this franchise.
In reality, I could see Babcock being removed as head coach after this season if they don’t get past the first-round, but I wouldn’t count on it happening. This team has more than enough talent to advance in the postseason and possibly win it all.