The Leafs had a lengthy Christmas break, playing their first game since Tuesday tonight in Florida against the resurgent Panthers.
There isn’t a lot of Leaf news these days, though there is always speculation and discussion, of course. From my perspective, I do have some questions for you, not only about the blue and white but also regarding the rest of the Eastern Conference as we gear up for the second half of the season. (Note: back in the olden days when I was a youngster, the regular season was only 70 games long in those pre-expansion, “Original Six” days. By those standards, the Leafs would indeed already be at the season’s halfway point.)
In no particular order, here are some questions on my mind as we move into a part of the schedule which will likely tell us a bit more about the Maple Leafs—and their Conference counterparts:
- Given the much discussed defensive issues around our first line, will Carlyle at any point look to split up that trio in the hope of re-jigging the overall balance of the forward lines? (Related question: who, if anyone, should be moved off the line?)
- Who is the Leaf that has surprised you the most this season?
- Is Morgan Rielly developing exactly as you had hoped? Even better than hoped? Is he somewhat behind schedule?
- Can this year’s “new” third and fourth liners (Santorelli, Panik, Winnik, Booth) and others like Clarkson, Holland and the still injured Komarov continue to impress over the course of a long season—especially as the going gets tougher down the stretch?
- While the team has seemingly made strides this season, is there still a missing link—i.e. an identity, leadership, will to win, etc.?
- Would you give Kadri a big-time contract? How about Franson?
- Have the Leafs maximized having Kessel on the roster?
- Would you trade Lupul for younger players who may be here when the team is really good, or is he precisely the kind of guy we need to keep for now?
- If a contending team or two suddenly needs an experienced goaltender before the deadline, should Reimer be moved when the going rate for a goalie would be higher?
- Who, if anyone, is an untouchable player on the Leafs?
As far as the rest of the Conference:
- Am I way off base to say Ted Nolan should get votes for Coach of the Year? (I generally dislike discussing awards during the year and realize we are still only midway through the season and the Sabres are in last place…)
- Is the Boston mini-dynasty over? (I use the term dynasty here simply to cite them as the organization in the East who has been consistently excellent—well coached, tough, skilled, etc. for several years now under Chiarelli and Julien.
- Is Tampa Bay really a Cup contender?
- Are the Habs for real? (Every year I keep thinking they can’t really be this good…)
- Might the Rangers actually be the best team in the Metropolitan division?
- Are the Red Wings finished as a serious Cup contender?
- Will Babcock be with the Red Wings next season?
Bonus question: if there is one player in the League you wish the Leafs could obtain, who would it be?