Are The Toronto Maple Leafs An Elite Team In The Eastern Conference?

By Randy Holt
Phil Kessel
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

In regard to the Toronto Maple Leafs, reviews around the league have been mixed as to how serious of contenders they may actually be. A team that made significant changes in the offseason, the Maple Leafs certainly look to be better off than last year, when they were the no. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference, but to what extent?

There’s certainly a case to be made that says the Maple Leafs are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Of the league’s two conferences, the East isn’t nearly as deep, which makes the question of whether or not they’re a team to be taken seriously a little easier to answer: they are.

The Maple Leafs are the fifth highest scoring team in the league at this point in the year, averaging 3.30 goals per game. That comes despite the fact that the Leafs are ranked 26th in the league in shots per game. Their power play is dynamite, coming in at no. 2 in the league with a 28 percent conversion rate with the man advantage.

This should really come as no surprise. From an offensive standpoint, the Maple Leafs are as deep as anyone in the league. They boast plenty of star power up front, including the likes of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. That’s in addition to boasting some quality offensive talent from the blue line.

It remains to be seen, though, if the Maple Leafs are strong enough at keeping the puck out of their own net in order to be considered among the league’s top teams. They’re currently 10th in the league in goals against per game, while surrendering over 34 shots per tilt. They also lead the league in giveaways by a mile, with 151 turnovers already, 38 more than the next closest team.

Between the pipes, Jonathan Bernier looks to be the real deal. He’s stolen the job completely from James Reimer, but even with Reimer as the no. 2, the Leafs still have a quality option in the event that Bernier falters at some point. As much negative attention as it garnered during the summer, their goaltending situation looks good.

Overall, you have to look at Toronto as a real threat to capture the East this season. They have the offense to do it. They have the ability on special teams to do it. They’re capable of keeping the puck out of their own net. If they can limit opposing opportunities and the takeaways, this is a very real threat out of the Eastern Conference this year.

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