By Thomas Zinzarella ’21
Fans in Toronto and Ontario have waited a long time to bring the cup back to Toronto. It has been 51 years but fans may not have to wait much longer.
The free agent signing of former New York Islander John Tavares is bringing a lot of cup fever to Toronto. Tavares, 28, inked a seven year $77 million contract to return to his home. Tavares, a native of nearby Mississauga, Ontario, looks to propel a Maple Leafs team that was bounced out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs just one year ago.
Tavares joins a team that has a lot of young talent but has not won a playoff series since 2004. The Leafs have one of the most potent offenses in the Eastern Conference with three 30-goals scorers and Tavares is coming off a season where he scored 37 goals (T-12th in NHL) and had 47 assists. Tavares brings a lot of veteran experience to a team that has a young core of forwards.
Phenome Auston Matthews, 21, will look to stay on the ice this year after missing 20 games last year due to injuries. However, these injuries did not stop Matthews as he put up 21 goals and 34 assists in 62 games last seasons. Through seven games this season, he has 10 goals and 16 points, leading the league in both categories.
Besides Matthews, the Leafs have other offensive weapons with Patrick Marleau and Nazem Kadri. Kadri has put up back-to-back 32 goal seasons with the Maple Leafs.
On the other end of the ice, the Leafs have a good net minder in Frederik Anderson who is coming off a season in which he set the Maple Leafs record in wins. Anderson put up a 38-21-5 record with a 2.81 GAA. This success did not transfer over to the Stanley Cup Playoffs where Anderson went 3-3 with a 3.76 GAA. There is a lot of anticipation surrounding how much he will play this season. Last year Anderson played in 66 out of the 82-game schedule.
Another concern for this team is going to be the defense. The Leafs do not have a top tier level defense and will rely on the offense for most of the season. Moreover, how well the defense will perform this season remains a question, though defenceman Morgan Rielly has gotten off to a quick start. As of Oct. 17, he leads the NHL in assists with 10.
It may take a little bit of time for the Leafs to take off and look like themselves, as most new teams need some time to develop chemistry. The Leafs may start off slow, but Head Coach Mike Babcock will most likely play around with the lines. There is a ton of talent on offense and it should be exciting season north of the border in Toronto.