After starting the 2018 season red hot, 2019 has been a very different story for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto has won just 6 of its first 13 games and barely sits in a Wild Card spot, largely because they have played more games than most of the teams behind them.
There are a few very alarming trends to start the season. The lack of team toughness has been an issue as teams are taking liberties with Toronto's best players with zero retribution. The last 2 seasons the Maple Leafs saw Nazem Kadri suspended in their first round series versus Boston after delivering a cheap shot following a dirty hit on a team mate. The Leafs shipped Kadri off to Colorado, not willing to risk a similar incident happening in the playoffs, but by doing so they traded the one guy on the roster who was not afraid to target an opponent who came after a top priced high skilled player. Toronto's lack of "sandpaper" could be an issue that haunts them throughout the year.
Goaltending is a major concern. Last year the Leafs got nothing out of the backup goalie position, and making the change to Michael Hutchinson has not helped. He is expected to play game two in any back to back situation and so far the Maple Leafs have lost all 4 of those game with Hutchinson sporting an awful .885 save percentage and goal against average of 4.25. Frederik Andersen's .904 save percentage must also improve.
Expectation are very high for this team as they paid all their high skilled players very well. Anything short of winning a first round playoff series for the first time since 2004 will be considered a colossal failure and will likely result in significant changes on the ice and possibly elsewhere in the organization.
Help should be on the way as John Tavares will return soon from his broken finger. Travis Dermott and Zach Hyman will be joining the roster this week. When healthy, Dermott should step into a top 4 role on the Blue line, while Hyman will give Mike Babcock many more options to balance his top 3 lines. With these three players back in the fold a much better November should be in the cards for the Toronto Maple Leafs.