They’ve won two in a row on the road and play the bottom-feeding Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, but there is still a chance the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs this season. If they do, will head’s roll? Will everyone involved be given a second, or third, chance? The answer is, as usual, somewhere in the middle, but there are some predictable events if the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs.
What Happens If The Toronto Maple Leafs Miss The Playoffs
It’s more likely than not the Maple Leafs make the playoffs. Despite being on the outside looking in as February begins. Before games on January 31st, Moneypuck.com gives them a 73.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. Sportsclubstats.com has them at 64.9 percent. The Athletic has them at 73 percent. Kyle Dubas and company probably won’t have to answer the toughest of questions, but if they did, it would start with the defence.
It’s been the team’s Achilles heel for years now. After making the playoffs three straight years, missing now with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, and Frederik Andersen all on the roster would be disastrous. Notice there aren’t any defencemen in that list.
Everyone knows the team’s weak point if the defence. It doesn’t help that Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie are both UFAs after this season either. If the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs, the first thing Dubas will be looking to do is finally get that stud defenceman for the blue line. The real question is how much will he be willing to pay.
William Nylander On The Trade Block?
It appears as if the Maple Leafs and Muzzin are both interested in working something out. That will cost money. Perhaps in the $5 to $6 million range. For the Maple Leafs to add on top of that, they may need to clear some cap space. Does that mean Nylander could be on the block? Nylander would fetch a top-pairing defenceman and at the same time clear enough space to afford that defenceman.
It would be a very bold move for the young GM. Not only has he committed to building his team around scoring forwards, but he’s also told Nylander he won’t be traded. Still, missing the playoffs while a team is supposed to be in it’s Stanley Cup window can lead to a major shakeup.
Is Kyle Dubas Safe?
“I think the way I look at that is that Shanny has to decide on me first and do an evaluation of me, which I think any organization would be best to do.” Kyle Dubas after the 2018-2019 season as per mapleleafshotstove.com
There is much that can happen between now and the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on February 24th. Dubas could flip Cody Ceci and some assets for a top-four right-side defenceman and the Maple Leafs could go on a run. Or he could stand pat, or worse, make a deal that appears to hurts the club overall. If the latter happens, Brendan Shanahan will have to decide if it was a mistake to hire the young Dubas. That’s a long shot though. Chances are, Dubas has at least one more year worth of rope yet.
What about Frederik Andersen?
When Andersen is playing well, the Maple Leafs win. When he’s not, the Maple Leafs lose. Much of that is on the entire team, but if Andersen closes out the year with a sub .900 save percentage. Or if he simply doesn’t play well enough for the team to make the playoffs, he may be on the trade block this offseason.
So far this season, Andersen has a save percentage of .910. That’s the worst of his career. If the season ends with Toronto missing the playoffs, and Andersen posts his worse career numbers, the team will begin to look elsewhere. It’s not that Andersen hasn’t been steady and dependable for must of his time in Toronto. He’s been excellent for most of that time. However, he’ll be 31 by the end of next season and a UFA. Will the Maple Leafs be willing to re-sign him if his numbers are down and he’s in line for a raise depending on what other teams are offering? The answer is probably not.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs, and they decide to move on from Andersen, there’s not a lot in the system that can fill his shoes in 2021. It may be easier to part with him in the 2020 offseason. Toronto would get a decent return and have the summer to find a quality replacement either by trade or free agency.
It would be an extreme scenario for Dubas to consider, but again, missing the playoffs with this roster may demand it.
The opening of free agency is widely known as the day many GMs overpay for talent. Dubas has so far avoided that, but if he gets desperate, that may change. He’ll need to find space to afford a big name, but where there’s a will there’s a way. The UFA class this season has many interesting names.
Alex Pietrangelo tops the list for the Maple Leafs. He’s exactly what the team needs if that can afford him. Braden Holtby is another one that Dubas may target if he decides to move away from Andersen. Or maybe Dubas will decide he needs additional depth at centre. Jean-Gabriel Pageau will be available, and Alexander Kerfoot hasn’t been the replacement for Nazem Kadri many expected him to be.
All is well in Leafland for now. They’ve had their dips, but if they peak at the right time, who knows. The season is most certainly not lost yet. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cakewalk into the playoffs, and perhaps it’s better than it’s not. Teams that need to win in their final few games to make the playoffs are often already in that playoff mentality and can take advantage of teams that have been waiting for the playoffs to start. Just as the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs, it may not be as devastating as it seems it would be now. It may be the thing that inspires this team to greatness both on and off the ice in future years. Hopefully, they don’t need such a drastic kick in the pants.
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