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Are the Maple Leafs capable of becoming this season's St. Louis Blues?

8 décembre 2019
When the St. Louis Blues began the new year in last place, the vast majority may have ruled them out to go on a legendary run to find themselves back in the playoff picture, but Mitch Marner was not among the disbelievers.


“Even on paper last year, when they weren’t doing too well, I think it surprised a lot of people. They got a group over there of players, a lot of skill and when I saw them turn it around, I wasn’t really surprised about it. I knew the talent they had and the depth they had so, I wasn’t too surprised about it," Marner told The Athletic's Jonas Siegel.

The Maple Leafs have found themselves in a similar spot to last year's Blues. They, too, have a highly skilled roster and their position in the standings does not reflect a team that is coming off of back-to-back 100+ point seasons.

Like last year's St. Louis Blues, the Buds have gone through a coaching change early on this season, ousting the veteran Mike Babcock in favor of some younger blood in former Toronto Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe, with whom Dubas had won a Calder Cup in 2017-18. Do the Leafs have what it takes to put together a run, similar to what St. Louis had accomplished in 2018-19, that would get them back into the playoff picture? Tyson Barrie believes it is.

“A hundred percent,” said Barrie. “You see a team that does it and has success. They were last place in the league in January and they come back — coaching change — and they win the Stanley Cup."

When the guys in the locker room believe in themselves, apply themselves and go to battle for one another, anything is possible. Team captain, John Tavares, is among those who will shoulder a lot of the burden if the Leafs hope to make such a run.

“There’s been plenty of teams over the course of the last number of years that don’t always start the best but seem to find their game at some point throughout the year and be able to have success in the playoffs,” commented Tavares. “Getting someone like Keefer, who’s got some great ideas and I think, implementing something that really fits our group, I think it’s exciting,” added the captain.

The Maple Leafs are marginally ahead of where the Blues were when they began to turn things around last season. When Berube took over for Mike Yeo, the Blues got off to a rocky start, posting a 3-4-1 record through their first 8 game stretch under their new bench boss. With Keefe taking the wheel for the Buds, the team has shown some glimmers of brilliance, posting a 5-3 record over that same initial 8 game span. Keefe could have easily boasted a 7-1 record, had the Leafs experienced some puck-luck in games against Philadelphia and Colorado. You could argue that the Leafs outplayed both the Flyers and the Avs in those contests, but I digress.

With the Leafs collecting a huge two points against the defending Stanley Cup champs to kick off their 4-game road trip, we're beginning to see what this team is capable of, playing a full 60 minutes and coming out of St. Louis with a 5-2 victory that saw the Leafs chase Jordan Binnington from the net in the first period for the first time in his NHL career.

The Leafs travel to Vancouver for a Tuesday game against the Canucks before continuing on their Western Canadian road trip to take on the Flames in Calgary on Thursday and the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before heading home. We should have a pretty good idea where the Leafs stand following these next 3 games. A 4-game road sweep would certainly put the Leafs in a position to succeed moving forward.

The Leafs currently hold a 14-13-4 record through 31 games this season.
SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON
QUIZ ON TRADERUMOURS
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In what year was the Oscars awarded for the first time?
1895
1929
1956
1969
SURVEY
Which scenario would you prefer if the NHL season restart?
END OF REGULAR SEASON + PLAYOFFS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH 16 TEAMS
IMMEDIATELY PLAYOFFS WITH MORE TEAMS
IT'S BETTER TO CANCEL THE SEASON