The Leafs' 3-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets (sigh) marked Game 41 of the schedule, putting the Leafs at the halfway mark on the season. At this point, a panel of PPP writers will look at this team in three parts.
In today's post, our writers look at this year's team and look into the short term crystal ball, specifically: where it's expected to finish, who goes, and who stays.
Participants: Scott Wheeler; ElSeldo; FiftyMissionCap; Achariya; Katyaknappe.
(1) At the time of writing, the Leafs sit 16-19-7. They’ve gone 15-12-5 since November 1, but remain 10 points back of a playoff spot. Where does this team finish?
SCOTT: Some models have the Leafs actually making the playoffs, but I think they’re too likely to unload several cheap players at the deadline to be considered real threats to make the playoffs.
ACHA: The Atlantic is such a weird division. The Habs are collapsing, the Cats are finally slowing down, so even if Leafs went on a modest tear, they might make it into a wild card slot. How crazy would that be? Given the rest of the teams in the division, I am not willing to bet on anything here.
FIDDY: I can’t see this team making the playoffs. Maybe if they were even .500 or thereabouts in October I could, but they’re just too far back. That said, Buffalo and Columbus have fallen far enough that I don’t think the Leafs are catching them either. I don’t believe the Leafs will tail off significantly after the deadline as some will.
SCOTT: I think you’ll see the Leafs clumped near the bottom of the East, probably ahead of Carolina, Buffalo, and Columbus and in the 5-10 range on draft day barring a lottery miracle.
KATYA: 20th overall.
ELSELDO: The Leafs will finish where they are now, in the range of 3rd to 5th last.
FIDDY: I think they’ll probably end up between 11th and 13th in the East and land the 7th-10th overall draft pick.
(2) Eight players on the Leafs roster- Michael Grabner; Shawn Matthias; P.A. Parenteau; Nick Spaling; Mark Arcobello; Brad Boyes; Roman Polak; and, James Reimer- are entering their UFA year. How many of these guys are not Toronto Maple Leafs on March 1?
ACHA: I don’t know. It’s weirdly difficult to weigh the present against the future.
FIDDY: If you asked me in October, I’d have said almost all of them; now I’m not so sure.
SCOTT: Arcobello hasn’t played enough or well enough to earn a trade, so I suspect he’s a full-time Leafs forward after the deadline. Spaling probably hasn’t helped his trade value much either.
FIDDY: Teams could have had Arcobello for free in October, but didn’t take him, so I can’t reasonably see any team giving up assets for him. I don’t think Matthias and Spaling have done enough to impress other teams and get the package the Leafs are probably looking for.
ACHA: I feel like Babcock is building this team into a scrappy, solid hockey team, and because of that I really feel like the only additions need to be through the gradual rising of the cream of the Marlies crop. Keep everyone but a few of the less useful UFAs when Nylander makes the lineup.
ELSELDO: Half aren’t Leafs. Whether through trades or walking as UFA’s.
SCOTT: Parenteau is the most likely to be dealt I’d think.
FIDDY: Parenteau is the most likely to be traded, followed by Polak. Grabner’s play of late may have sweetened potential offers, so he’s 50-50 in my books. Boyes is also 50-50 to me.
ELSELDO: My choices are : Reimer, Grabner, Polak, and Boyes.
FIDDY: I think Reimer gets moved only if the Leafs aren’t even close to any kind of extension.
(3) Let’s flip that question around now: how many of these guys are Toronto Maple Leafs after July 1?
SCOTT: Maybe one but probably zero. If I had to guess? Reimer.
ELSELDO: Matthias, Parenteau, Spaling, Arcobello.
FIDDY: Reimer is the only one I could see staying. Maybe Boyes if they can get a similar deal in the 2-3 year range. I really don’t see any of these guys in the long-term plans of the team, though.
4) Which non-UFA player is most likely to get moved?
FIDDY: Bozak has one year remaining on a $4.2M deal, which is decent value for his level of production.
SCOTT: I think there’s a good chance all of Bozak, Phaneuf, and Lupul are still dealt but it would probably have to be an offseason move.
FIDDY: Bozak will have the most takers, and I think the addition of Nylander- not to mention certain Toronto-born UFAs out there who might want to come home- makes him pretty expendable.
SCOTT: Winnik and Komarov are both attractive pieces that could be moved in-season. If there’s a management group to recognize that Komarov is playing above where he’s expected to play, it’s the Leafs.
ON TUESDAY: Part 2- Individual Performances