Toronto Maple Leafs Odds to Win The Stanley Cup – Fact or Fiction
I will be writing a series of NHL articles determining whether we have “fact” or “fiction” in the betting markets when it comes to NHL Stanley Cup futures value with particular teams should we see the NHL season resume at some point. I’ll start by examining the Toronto Maple Leafs who are currently listed at +1800 to win the Stanley Cup at some sportsbooks. I advise everyone to shop around and have accounts at multiple sportsbooks when betting futures in any sport to ensure that you are getting the best and most favorable price on any wager.
Change For The Good
The Toronto Maple Leafs have endured a turmoil filled season yet when the NHL season was suspended, they were in a playoff spot by virtue of being the 3rd place team in the Atlantic Division. Toronto fired their previous head coach Mike Babcock in November after a 9-14 start to the season. They replaced him with former head coach of the Toronto Marlies (the Leafs AHL affiliate) Sheldon Keefe which produced the often seen temporary ‘uptick’ in team performance which most coaching changes do initially as the Leafs went 27-20 since he took over behind the bench. However, there are still far too many flaws with this hockey team that preclude me from believing in them as any sort of Stanley Cup contender.
The Leafs Have Turned Toronto Into The Red Light District
The winning formula for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season has been scoring their way out of trouble. The Leafs have a potent offensive team with plenty of quality scoring depth among all four lines that are capable of finding the back of the net. The Leafs ranked 3rd in the league in goals averaging 3.4 goals per game. Toronto possesses a fantastic and depth rich forward group led by game-breaking, elite-level talents like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares who were all 1st round draft picks. The Leafs have the firepower to erase any deficit and their scoring prowess is clearly the strength of the team.
It’s at the defensive end of the ice where the Leafs faltered throughout the course of the season. Toronto was ranked 26th in goals allowed per game at 3.2 and the Leafs penalty kill also struggled most of the season. This is just not a good team when it comes to playing defense and keeping the puck out of their own net as the Leafs have been prone to breakdowns in terms of positioning and communication in the defensive zone repeatedly.
Toronto’s starting goaltender Frederik Andersen has been forced to bail the team out in recent seasons from the team’s suspect defensive play but Andersen has not performed at his best level or had his best season in part due to injuries that sidelined him for a period of time earlier this season and took him out of his playing rhythm. Andersen has good but not great numbers by his standards with a 2.85 GAA and .909 save percentage this season prior to the stoppage of play. Hockey fans know that goalies are creatures of habit. Any time that goalies are knocked out of their regular routine can be detrimental to their confidence and performance and that is what happened to Andersen and without him being at the absolute top of his game, Toronto can’t win games because they don’t have the defensive acumen and structure whenever they receive less than stellar goaltending. Toronto gives up far too many quality scoring chances and often times they are the high danger type of scoring opportunities that no goalie in the world can stop. That hasn’t changed and the defensive shortcomings remain the Leafs biggest obstacle in their path to the Stanley Cup.
Toronto was the 2nd strongest Over team in the NHL at 39-29 to the Over this season with a combination of their 3rd ranked potent offense and 26th ranked defense. The Leafs play very exciting hockey but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the playoffs. I don’t want any part of the Toronto Maple Leafs from a futures standpoint. The Leafs have failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous three seasons and yes they are a more experienced team as the main core of players have been together for 4 seasons but the fact remains the Leafs have not improved enough defensively to truly believe in this team as a Stanley Cup threat. Toronto would be facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the postseason started the day after the season was put on hold. I don’t think they would have defeated the Lightning in that series with a Tampa Bay team that added some good pieces at the trade deadline to shore up their own defensive struggles by adding good defensive minded players and an enhanced physical grit element. Tampa Bay would also be chomping at the bit to make amends in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs after a humiliating 4 game sweep in the first round as the #1 overall seed at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets last season after the Lightning had one of the best regular season performances in NHL history. Even if Toronto plays another opponent in the first round, the team hasn’t shown the ability to keep pucks out of their own net. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s much more difficult to outscore your defensive struggles. I would stay away from making a wager on the Leafs to win the Stanley Cup as there are far more appealing options to look at in both conferences.