Point-Counterpoint: Are The Current Maple Leafs The Real Deal?
Point-Counterpoint is an opinion based feature taking a back and forth look at a specific topic. This week, CKSN editors Dwight Wakabayashi (DW) and Ian Kennedy (IK) take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs, and question, Are The Current Maple Leafs The Real Deal?
DW: That is the billion dollar question right there Ian. If you mean for real in terms of playoff contender, that is on the way up than I am saying 100% all in on that one. They are a playoff team THIS SEASON, and it is equal parts how they are playing as a team, combined with how weak the East is this year.
IK: I don’t think anyone can deny the Leafs are talented. Auston Matthew, Mitch Marner, Morgan Reilly, a re-energized Nazem Kadri, solid goaltending from Fredrik Andersen coupled with Mike Babcock’s coaching, but I’m not sold. I think even in the weak East, the youth of this team will hit a serous roadblock at some point. The playoffs are all about grizzled veterans supporting youth. I don’t know, maybe Matt Martin will be a playoff hero, but the Leafs will only sell me when they aren’t a first round knockout.
DW: That is the biggest fear right? The young guy wall. I have seen this organization collapse time and time again in my lifetime but I think this team has one main difference and that is Babcock and the group upstairs. I know they aren’t the one’s doing it on the ice but they are teaching these kids so well that I can’t see that wall affecting all of them. Injuries maybe, but fatigue won’t be a factor and I can’t see how this team doesn’t make it the way they are playing.
IK: Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a Leafs fan, you should be excited by the product you see on the ice. This is a young team, truly not much different from the last place Edmonton Oilers teams we’ve seen in recent years, rattling off dominant streaks. On a team like this, a true indicator has to be depth. On the point, they really don’t have it. In net, if Andersen goes down, it’s a position they’ve tested just about everyone at but the zamboni driver to find a reliable back up. As youthful as they are, I just don’t think the young and talented Leafs can survive the media and fickle fan backlash that would ensue if the training wheels come off too early.
DW: Leafs fans certainly know how to get overly excited, but I can say that there is a little bit of collapse anxiety in Leafs Nation right now. There have been a few media references to the 18-wheeler still going off the cliff. I find this team is different from those underachieving Oiler groups and the reason why is the management group and Mike Babcock. They really know what they are doing and should be able to avoid a major dip. I do agree with you about the lack of depth on the Leafs blue line. They are definitely not deep enough to contend for the cup this year or any year until they address that weakness, but they are plenty deep enough to get into the dance and make some noise. I’m sorry you will have to watch the Blue and White in the first round this year my friend!
IK: I’m sorry too, especially if (when) Detroit doesn’t make the playoffs. It’s going to change the ton and volume of conversation here in Southwestern Ontario. I’m still an unbeliever. As with most things in sports, I profess an earned not given mentality. When the Leafs are in the playoffs, and are able to give another playoff team a decent fight in four straight games, or more, I’ll admit this team is ready for the now, that this team is the real deal.