Toronto Maple Leafs: What Are the Expectations This Season?


Going into this season there is a lot of uncertainty about the Toronto Maple Leafs because of the numerous changes made in the front office, the coaching staff, and on the roster.

Apr 11, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) is checked by Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin (74) as he carries the puck at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

With the Toronto Maple Leafs set to open their season against the Montreal Canadiens tonight there have been a lot of questions regarding the expectations for the team this season.

One expectation that fans should have with this team should be patience, especially early on. This is something that GM Lou Lamoriello spoke about with Steve Simmons from the Toronto Sun saying that the real challenge will be to remain patient.

"When asked what he thought about his roster, his answer was short: “Not enough.”When asked to elaborate, he said: “We have to find out who they really are. People are always on their best behaviour with a new coach. After a while, we’ll know what we have.”"

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This is the real challenge for the Leafs going into this season because there are a lot of unknowns. What will the team get from the core players like Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner?

At this point no one knows what these players are going to do under Babcock, but it should be better than what happened last season. Training camp and preseason is not enough time for the coaching staff and management to get a firm understanding of the team. These players will have to prove throughout the course of the season that things are different. The team is hoping that the mentality from the players will be different.

Many fans are hoping that with the team going through a rebuild that another top five pick or even a top three pick is in sight. The only way that happens is if the team has a repeat of what happened last season and that will be unlikely under Babcock.

His approach will be to get better as a team and have players continue to improve, it will not be like Buffalo, Arizona or even Edmonton. Understandably that would be difficult to believe after what happened last season, but Babcock is different from Randy Carlyle, and Peter Horachek. This is what Babcock had to say yesterday before today’s game.

Hopefully Babcock’s energy gets the players on track after a forgettable past few years and hopefully he can help them move on from it.

The one player that needs to improve the most is Phaneuf after he has received a lot of scrutiny for his play after signing a seven-year extension last season. Hopefully with a coach that can instill a lot of confidence in his players can do the same for a player that has seen a rapid decline since he broke out with the Calgary Flames years ago.

Oct 3, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Scott Harrington (36) controls the puck against Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha (39) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What should be encouraging for Leafs’ fans is the fact that young defencemen are getting their chance to impress with Rielly and Gardiner earning the trust of Babcock. Then there is Scott Harrington and Martin Marincin who were brought in this summer and now both are expected to be in the lineup in favour of Roman Polak and Stephane Robidas (who is dealing with an injury). The addition of Frank Corrado also shows the new shift in younger players being the focus of the team moving forward.

Seeing Brendan Shanahan go on the ice to work with some players is also an encouraging sign because having a person like Shanahan with Lamoriello and Babcock to try to get things back on track is what this team needs. They are all experienced people and have a consistent track record, which the team has not had in a long time. It shows that ownership will spend the money to bring in the right people, which is something they can certainly afford to do, and will help make Leafs’ fans believe again.

Apr 11, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Casey Bailey (37) is congratulated by defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) after scoring his first career NHL goal in the first period against the Montreal Canadiens at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

For now all Leafs’ fans can hope for is that the message gets through to the players and they can put forward the consistent effort to be competitive every night. That is all Leafs’ fans want to see, a team that they can be proud to watch even if the wins are not there but the effort and desire to improve is.

While the playoffs are not on the minds of the organization, fans should understand that the team is looking at the long-term picture instead of making the playoffs only to be eliminated in the first round. It is about seeing improvements with individual players which hopefully turns into long-term success.

With all this talk about the pain in the process and the long road to building a contender, all the fans will want tonight is to bring the pain to the Canadiens in the season opener.

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