In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Twenty-seventh up are the Toronto Maple Leafs who are in their 103rd year as a franchise. They have made the playoffs in the last three consecutive seasons after making it just once between 2004-2016.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 7th
- Goals for Rank: 4th
- Goals against Rank: 20th
- PP Rank: 8th
- PK Rank: 16th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 5th
- Eastern Conference Standings: 4th
- Atlantic Division Standings: 3rd
- Coach: Mike Babcock (fifth season with the Maple Leafs; 328-164-123 regular season; 8-12 playoffs; career 691-408-19-160 regular season and 90-74 playoffs)
On offense, Toronto had the 4th most shots for in the NHL and the 4th most goals for (talk about league average shooting percentage). This team is quite deep on offense, sure Mitchell Marner had 94 points last season (11th most in NHL) but beyond that the Maple Leafs boasted four players above 70 points (something done by them, Boston, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Florida and Washington). More impressive to me was the nine players who had at least 15 goals: Mitchell Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, Kasperi Kapanen, Nazem Kadri, Andreas Johnsson, Zach Hyman and Patrick Marleau. The loss of a handful of offensive players might take a slight hit to their offensive numbers (in attempt to bolster their defense) but this is still a top seven offense in the NHL.
Defensively, this team was not so stellar. They allowed the 7th most shots against and allowed the 11th most goals against. Even with the new additions, this is not a top 10 defense but it brings it from below average to average. Morgan Rielly and Tyson Barrie are great, Jake Muzzin is really good, Cody Ceci is ok and I’m not sure what Martin Marincin will look like this season. Jake Muzzin put up 16 points and a +11 in just 30 games with the team last year, I’m excited to see if that continues over a full season.
In net, Frederik Andersen started about 75% of the teams games last season winning 36 games and sporting a 2.77 GAA (25th in NHL) and a .917 SV% (13th in NHL). Over his time with Toronto, those numbers sit right in the average area of what we can expect from him. His time with Anaheim showed lower numbers but that team is inherently a defense first system. I see Frederik being an average goalie for the Maple Leafs who will likely win at least 35 games (which puts him as a top five goalie in terms of wins).
Behind the bench, Mike Babcock has been coaching for 16 seasons, over that time he has missed the playoffs just twice. He won the cup with the Red Wings in 2007-2008 but the bigger issue is that he has now gone three straight seasons losing in the first round of the playoffs (the last two to the Boston Bruins) and one could argue they were in a position to win going to game seven in each of those three seasons. I think his litmus test lies in whether or not this team advances to the second round.
- Cody Ceci
- Tyson Barrie
- Nazem Kadri
- Patrick Marleau
Prospects and Picks
Rasmus Sandin – Taken 29th overall in the 2018 draft, Rasmus might have been lost amidst the six Swedish players who were taken in the first round or perhaps among the five Scandinavian defensemen taken in the first round. He spent last season in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies where he had six goals and 28 points in 44 games in the regular season and then 10 assists in 13 playoff games. He looks ready to step up to the professional level and should help their defense make a step forward this year.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
William Nylander – After holding out a bit of last season he came in and played 55 games scoring just seven goals and scoring 27 points with a -4. Take those figures and double them for his expected 2019-2020 stats. That’s right, over a full season where he will see time on the top line with Auston Mathews and Andreas Johnsson as well as time on the top two power play units (where he had just 6 points last season). William should end this season with at least 20 goals and 55 points this season and as far as I’m concerned, that’s his FLOOR.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$94.9MM Spent; $0 in Cap room; 23 players signed.