John Tavares is a Leaf! That means the Toronto Maple Leafs have Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Nazem Kadri down the middle. Hayley Wickenheiser is a part of the Maple Leafs front office. The Leafs are Stanley Cup favourites. Things have gone from nay to yay and like Lazarus, the Leafs have risen from the dead! Rejoice or repent, there’s one thing fantasy players can’t contend – the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of fantasy hockey’s “A-teams”.
What Makes the Toronto Maple Leafs One Of Fantasy’s “A-Teams”?
The Leafs have been on the rise for the past few years. For the faithful fans that have been following them, they’ll say that this was the team’s destiny, for it was “prophesized”. Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock once famously said that there “would be pain” and he was right, there was pain. Losing in Game seven against the Bruins again was a reminder of the notion. One thing that has to be mentioned, each time there is pain, a lesson can be learned. It may be a tough pill to swallow in the present, but time heals all wounds. Love it or hate it, the Leafs did not have the discipline to last in the playoffs against grizzled vets like the Bruins. In hockey or any aspect of life, discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.
Now the Leafs are boasting a lethal top-six that’ll be sure to have some of that “discipline”. Which helps add onto that coveted fantasy value. Although there is no statistical way of measuring discipline, it means a lot to a player’s overall performance. Add in a superstar like John Tavares, this team is rolling.
The Tavares Effect
So Toronto’s top-six last year was pretty good. Matthews missed some time due to injury but he still netted 34 goals and 29 assists in 62 games. Matthews’ linemate William Nylander did quite well himself with 20 goals and 41 assists in 82 games. Mitch Marner was the not-so-hidden-gem with 22 goals and 47 assists in 82 games. That gives him the most points on the team with 69 after starting the season off rather poorly.
Let’s look at it this way: the “Big Three” combined for 193 points. That is impressive and it doesn’t stop there!
“The Other Guys”
Nazem Kadri had himself another solid season. 32 goals and 23 helpers. That’s not bad for a guy who will be a third-liner this season. He has proven that he can kill penalties when he’s not taking them. He’s not afraid to block a shot or throw his body around. Babcock trusts Kadri with big faceoffs and matches him up with the other team’s top players. How will that change this season has yet to be seen, but there’s no doubt Kadri will be involved.
How ’bout old man Patrick Marleau? That old bugger had another 20+ goal season and with the lineup of players Toronto has, his production probably won’t slow down too much in the 2018-2019 season. He could be a nice piece in a deep 12 team fantasy league.
That Morgan Rielly guy, he was a pretty productive d-man for the Maple Leafs. He wasn’t a huge goal scorer last year, putting six of those rubber things in the back of the net, but he did lend a hand whenever he could putting up 46 assists. That’s not too shabby fantasy players. It’s not legendary, but it’s solid.
Yeah, Leaf fans probably still haven’t forgiven Jake Gardiner, but other fans probably have. He could be a nice waiver wire pickup when the injury bug hits your team. That’s if somebody doesn’t draft him. He could very well be a “sleeper”. After all, he did have a 52 point season. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
Oh and that Danish goalie Frederik Andersen, he had himself a da…. a year! He faced 2,211 shots with a mediocre defence backing him. Freddy posted a 2.81 GAA and won 38 games. He brought some value and will bring some this year if all the predictions are correct and the Leafs win the President’s Trophy. The Danish version of Felix Potvin, Mr. Andersen will put hard times on his opponents and work his way into the top-five goalies in the league. Crap, made those predictions too early.
What does this season look like for the Leafs?
If last year was any indication, the Leafs will be a very offensive team. Add in John Tavares and it gets that much better.
John Tavares is a top player in the NHL. He makes each and every player better around him (CC: Josh Bailey). Now take a player like Mitch Marner and put him on a line with Tavares, it is Heaven on earth for the Leafs and a trip through hell for everybody else. It is already known the chemistry that Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander already have. With another season under their belts, one could say that the production could get even better, especially if Matthews can stay healthy all season. And fantasy players can’t sleep on Kadri and that third line. It’s too early to say who will be playing there, but if Kasperi Kapanen happens to be on that line, keep an eye out and watch Kappy’s progression.
Don’t sleep on the “D”
Players like Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner will prove their worth. Gardiner knows how to move the puck into the offensive zone and can set up plays. So to can Morgan Rielly. Not to mention, these players can throw their weight around, which is valuable in fantasy. No doubt will they be playing on the power play. They’re worth taking a shot on. As Gretzky says, “You miss 100 percent f the shots you don’t take.” So pretend this is Tinder and use your best pick up line!
The power play will be killer.
Marner, Matthews, Marleau, Kadri, Nylander, Gardiner, and Rielly combined for 111 power play points last year. Yes, JVR’s hefty 20 points will be missed, but John Tavares is a Leaf and he had 30 power play points last year.
Now imagine how many points these players could get. One PP unit could be Marleau, Tavares, and Marner. The other could be Hyman/Brown/Kappy, Matthews, and Nylander. The skill in that top-six is insane and will make fantasy owners worldwide blow their loads. PP goals are extra points and those extra points could be the reason a person wins their league or weekly match up.
There may be other solid teams out there that COULD match Toronto’s offensive output. That being said, Toronto has all the tools to score goals and put points on the board. This is the year Leaf fans would be smart to load up their fantasy teams with their favourite hometown players. Each player has value and can contribute to one’s ever so important fantasy totals.
Remember, knowledge is power. Use it to your advantage. Lazarus once rose from the dead and so can your fantasy game! Go and be free and win your league.
(PS, don’t drink the kool-aid that comes when you don’t change your lineups).