Toronto Maple Leafs Christmas wish list: Taking the next step as a contender

Kasperi Kapanen #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates a goal during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Kasperi Kapanen #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates a goal during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t return to action until Dec. 28 against the Columbus Blue Jackets as fans hope they can take the next step as contenders.

As people spend the holiday season with family and friends, the Toronto Maple Leafs get some time off before they take on a tough part of their season.

The team is almost at the halfway point of the season and sit six points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the best record in the NHL. Obviously, the playoffs will be the focus from now until the end of the season but the question is how much are they willing to go to establish themselves as contenders.

If you’re a Leafs fan, your biggest wish list this Christmas might have been a jersey or any other apparel but also to see the team take the next step. In their last game going into the break against the Detroit Red Wings, it was looking like another trap game.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

Then the Leafs turned on the switch and climbed back into the game with John Tavares tipping a Jake Gardiner shot with under 10 seconds left to send the game to overtime. With that win, the Leafs extended their win streak to four games and it was a classic example of how the Leafs can look like a dominant team at one point but lack the effort and focus to do it on a consistent basis.

After blowing out the New Jersey Devils and Florida by a combined score of 13-3, the Leafs outscored the Rangers and Red Wings 10-8. To be fair, the Leafs roster has been in constant transition the past couple of seasons with many Toronto Marlies graduating to the NHL.

These players are learning about the difference in competition between the NHL and AHL and players like; Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Travis Dermott are thriving in their roles. Garret Sparks is still sorting through the challenge of being a backup goalie but getting the results for the most part.

As good as those players have been in the roles given to them, there is only so much the team can expect from them. If this team wants to take the next step, general manager Kyle Dubas will need to decide with Mike Babcock what they can work with and what needs to be added.

The Leafs GM spoke about his desire to add to the blue line citing the team’s struggle to generate clean breakouts. What he needs to decide is how far is he willing to go to make those upgrades?

Is he willing to move a player like Johnsson in a package to get a defenceman? It is less likely that Kapanen would be moved considering how much of the slack he has picked up playing with Auston Matthews.

Leafs fans will be curious to see what will be done and far this team can go because they would not want to be in a position where they get eliminated in the first round. After making the biggest free agent signing in recent memory, the expectations are high for Toronto and fans are hoping they can meet it.

Next. Leafs should avoid rental market ahead of trade deadline. dark

What are your hopes for the Leafs this season? Do you want them to go out and try to acquire a player at the trade deadline and push to contend? Let us know in the comments below.