Red Wings Atlantic Division Preview Part 1: Toronto, Florida & Tampa Bay

Dec 21, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne (73) skates with the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Ilya Mikheyev (65) tries to defend during the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne (73) skates with the puck as Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Ilya Mikheyev (65) tries to defend during the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /
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Toronto Maple Leafs

Record Last Season: 35-14-7
Playoff Results Last Season: Lost in seven games to Montreal in round one
Expectations this season: Winning the Stanley Cup

The schadenfreude that fanbases around hockey enjoyed when Toronto was stunningly bounced from the first round of the playoffs last season was something to behold.

Though some have argued a breakup of the core should be considered, history shows that some of the more recent champions–as well as those in the distant past–have hit the wall several times before finding success or winning it all. The pressure to succeed in Toronto is enormous, and there will be a lot of fans on either rooting side of the Leafs watching to see how they respond.

Editor in Leaf’s James Tanner was nice enough to offer up his thoughts as the Red Wings historic rival looks to win more than just the division. Here’s a look at what the Leafs could be–and for the record, I feel like this is the year Toronto breaks through the first round and beyond.

OT: The noise surrounding the team in regards to Toronto not advancing beyond the first round: It’s just noise, right? Or is there legitimate concern that this is it before Dubas pays for it and players are moved?

James: This is a complicated question because yes, it’s likely that the President and GM will be fired if the Leafs don’t have success this year. But given the context of the Leafs losing five straight first round series (The first three of them against legacy teams where they were a young team and extreme underdogs, then two series across nine months where they were demonstrably unlucky) they deserve more time to get it right.

Firing Dubas would be extremely stupid and shortsighted, but there’s only so much tolerance for a “good process, bad results” situation in pro sports.

OT: Who do you expect a lot from this season? Conversely, who might take a step back?

James: Matthews, Marner and Nylander are all in their peak-performance years and they should drive the Leafs towards being something close to the best team in hockey. Campbell isn’t going to play in a way that gets the Leafs 80% of possible points again, so he’ll definitely regress, but hopefully he’s still a decent starter.

OT: Wings fans know Petr Mrazek well and it seems like you’re just never sure which Mrazek will be in the crease. What’s the general consensus from Leafs fans? 

James: I don’t really know what the perception of Mrazek is, but I do know that I feel it was a smart pick up. You can’t really predict how any goalie will ever perform, so if you have a guy whose cheap, in his prime years and has a history of success, you can’t really go too wrong.

OT: From a rebuild standpoint, where do you see Detroit in the process? From the outside, do the prospects seem as legit as they do within the Wings fanbase?

James: Detroit is likely in for a rough season, but that’s a good thing. They’ve got a nice prospect base, but barring another seventh round pick turning into a franchise player, Detroit needs to pick first or second overall to really get that jewel that you can centre a rebuild around. Right now their future looks good, but in my opinion,  they should be getting picks for Larkin and tanking the season in order to find that franchise player.