Itís that time of year againÖ well sort of. In a normal year, this would be around the time that the Leafs would have completed about 55 games, but the lockout changed that pretty quickly. At present, the Leafs and the rest of teams in the NHL are at or just around the quarter mark of the season with 12 or so games in the books. As such, itís time for an early, but vital, assessment of how the Leafs are doing top to bottom; a midterm of sorts. In another 12 games, the season will be half completed, and weíll have a much better idea of where the Leafs stand in terms of their quest to end the infamous playoff drought, but for now some important trends are emerging and worth noting.
Raptors look like a playoff contender for NEXT season
Leafs are in a playoff spot, like others have said the season just started though
Jays are stacked on paper, we have to see them play
Argos just won the championship
Marlies went to the finals and are having a solid season
Rock are just the Rock, they're amazing
TFC are rebuilding
Eh, looks a lot better than it did from 08-12. This thread should jinx it all though.
Raptors are legit, would be a playoff team if they started the season now...got screwed several times by refereeing (which is 10X worst in the NBA than the NHL).
Jays, stacked on paper, I'm not willing to hand them anything. We've seen how many high-salary and supposedly well-built "paper teams" have fared in recent years (See Boston, Anaheim, etc.).
Not willing to hand anything to the Leafs either. Simply put, I don't think we have the talent to compete with the elite teams. If Reimer can prove to be viable in goal, we're still a #1C + a #1/#2 type D-man away (Phaneuf just doesn't cut it). Hopefully I'm wrong and we peak at the right time (because the Devils don't particularly look great on paper either but made the cup finals last year).
I think a better way to put it is that the outlook for all the Toronto teams finally looks promising. The Leafs seem to have finally turned a corner (though they're still missing some key pieces before they could be called a contender), finally some of BC's moves are panning out for the Raptors and they're starting to fill out a young, talented roster, and the Jays obviously made huge waves and are projected to be one of the best in the league.
All that being said, the Jays have yet to play a game, the Leafs are only 13 games in and 3 games over .500, and the Raptors are still 12 games under .500 and 6 games back of 8th...so there's still a ways to go before we can say they're all 'good teams'.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, I think we should at least acknowledge the fact that the Leafs have finally established a bonafide identity as a hockey team. The team seems to really enjoy playing with each other and the attitude is much more positive than it's been in recent years.
That being said we've faced relatively easy competition so far. We've beaten two of the toughest teams we've seen 5-2. We also lost in a very disappointing manner to both New York teams. In our division we still can't couldn't Boston, but we've thoroughly chewed on (lol) and spit out the habs when we've played them. I think we'll really know what we're made of after our games against the Senators. They've been our most bitter rival these past few years and those games never fail to dissapoint.
The ability to truly roll 4 lines hasn't been seen in a long time, and as long as the boys can continue to mesh and play well together I think they really can continue the pace of the past few weeks. I'm not saying they'll be winning every night, but I think that they are a solid enough hockey team with their own style of play that they can at least provide solid competition for anyone in this league. Our key players who haven't been hurt (Kessel, Phaneuf, Grabo) are playing well enough and we've had plenty of pleasant surprises from the new guys. From an organizational standpoint you have to be proud of what's going on down in the AHL. Eakins has proven to be a great coach who can not only lead his team to the Calder Cup finals, but also improve the gameplay of his younger and less experienced players.
The Leafs have the potential to be a very good hockey team for the first time in a long time. I'll give you a better answer on the final exam.