Toronto Maple Leafs 2021-22 Season Recapby Christopher Gallagher May 25, 2022 0 comments
This season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were one of the premier teams across the NHL. The organization won a franchise-record 54 games for 115 points. Along with this, they also set the single-season mark for home victories with 31. Guided by the play of their two superstar forwards, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, the former racked up a career-high 60 goals while the latter recorded 97 points. Looking to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 18 seasons, the group would again undergo playoff heartbreak. Matched up with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sheldon Keefe and company would lose in game seven for the fifth season in a row, leaving significant question marks heading into the offseason.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 27.27% (1st)
Penalty Kill: 82.05% (8th)
Goals For: 312 (2nd)
Goals Against: 252 (14th)
Matthews put together one of the finest seasons of his six-year NHL tenure in 2021. He solidified himself as one of the game’s best goal scorers. Capturing the Rocket Richard trophy for the second time, the former first overall pick broke Rick Vaive‘s record for goals in a season by a Maple Leaf. The Scottsdale, Arizona native became the first player in the league to reach the 60-goal mark since Steven Stamkos in 2011-2012 while amassing new highs in assists (46) and points (106). Nominated for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player for the second time, the 24-year-old also continued to improve on his two-way game. Entering his name into the Selke conversation, he finished second in the league behind Alex Pietrangelo in takeaways (92).
Choosing to run it back after being knocked off by their bitter rival in the Montreal Canadiens a season ago, the Maple Leaf’s management committed to the same group for 2021. Putting together another solid regular season, the team played better against the Lightning than in previous postseason showings. They had two chances to close out the series after taking a 3-2 lead following their game five victory. However, like in previous years, Toronto failed to demonstrate a killer instinct and put their playoff woes behind them. After taking the lead into the third period on the road in game six, the group would ultimately lose in overtime. Knocked off 2-1 in game seven, the organization became the first franchise across the NHL, MLB, and NBA to lose five straight elimination games in the first round.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Hired as Toronto’s head coach following the firing of Mike Babcock during the 2019-2020 season, the Maple Leafs have improved every year under Keefe. He is known for being highly creative, well prepared, and adaptable behind the bench. The 41-year-old has stressed a high possession game through the neutral zone to utilize the speed present on his team. Along with this, he has also helped Toronto improve in their own end, leading them to rank inside the top ten in shots on net per game. However, with three straight cracks at trying to get the group over the playoff hump, question marks are beginning to arise if the Brampton, Ontario native is the man for the job in the future.
Front Office Analysis
Going to the well for the team he helped put together, Kyle Dubas committed to winning with the core group present in Toronto. He was active throughout the season, like in years past. The fifth-year general manager made additions to his bottom six and the blue line. This was through the signings of Ondrej Kase and David Kampf in free agency and the acquisitions of Mark Giordano and Ilya Lyubushkin.
Playing a crucial role for the franchise, Kampf scored a career-high 11 goals while also helping to kill penalties, while Lyubushkin played on the number one pairing alongside Morgan Rielly. Moreover, he also added Michael Bunting on a two-year deal with an average annual value of just $950,000. The former fourth-round pick exploded onto the scene in his first full season in the league. He recorded a career-high 63 points while playing on the top line alongside Matthews and Marner.
2022 NHL Entry Draft
The Maple Leafs choose not to move their first-round pick at the trade deadline. As a result, they hold onto the 27th selection in the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft. They are scheduled to make just two other selections over the course of the weekend. The franchise traded their second-round choice in a package to the Seattle Kraken for Mark Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell. Furthermore, they also acquired goaltender David Rittich from the Calgary Flames last season while sending back their third-round choice as compensation. The organization needs to add to its prospect pool with a scarcity of up-and-coming talent in the pipeline. Look for them to target forward depth while also trying to add to their defensive core.
There is a large number of items on their offseason to-do list. The first decision for Toronto will be deciding what to do with number one netminder Jack Campbell. He is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency status on July 13th. The longtime Los Angeles King should see a significant raise on the market after a strong first season as the starter for the team. The franchise must also decide what to do with their other list of players looking for contracts. After re-upping with Giordano on a two-year extension, nine more names are still without deals. Furthermore, after failing to get out of the first round for the sixth year in a row, Dubas will also be faced with the question of trying to provide a spark on his roster while pressed up against the league’s salary cap total.
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