I’ll start with Leafs fans favourite whipping boy Nazem Kadri. Despite his past inconsistent performances, I can see Kadri having a breakout year this year and will have his first 25 goal season. With the loss of Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh, the Leafs will need scoring by committee and this is where Kadri will find a way to help out. Mike Babcock said at a recent press conference that the Leafs centre “has had a good summer,” and that he is a guy that the veteran coach “going to focus strongly on.” Not to mention as well that he comes into camp on a one year contract, meaning that he has something to prove to management and the team. I believe that Babcock has the tools and Kadri has the skills to make this a career year for the young centre.
I also believe that young defenceman Jake Gardiner will be moved by the trade deadline. In his NHL career, Gardiner has only had one season where he finished on the plus side of the plus/minus stat. In that season, he only played 12 games for the team. Mike Babcock likes to have a defensively sound system, and I think Gardiner will struggle in that system. His liabilities have included turning over the puck on a consistent basis and not having a plan when he has the puck. However Gardiner is just 25 years old, and some teams make take a flyer on his potential. He could very easily be flipped for draft picks.
Moving to the PTO players, I think that both Curtis Glencross and Brad Boyes will make the final squad. At 32 years old, Glencross would bring some extra veteran leadership to the room. It has been several years since he has been in this situation, where he has to fight for a roster spot. This was because the Flames saw him as a good veteran leader and averaging just over 13 goals a year the last few seasons, a solid third line contributor. Boyes has been a consistent player the last few seasons, averaging 36 points per year. At 33, his output has not tapered off, and he could be relied upon to help create offence that the Leafs sorely need. This is also a homecoming for the Mississauga native, giving him extra incentive to have a good camp.
Finally, standings wise, I see the Leafs improving on their 30 win, 68 point season. This is because there is only one way to go after a season like last year, and that is hopefully up. The leafs have a head coach that hates to lose and with that comes a fresh outlook. However, this is still a rebuild, and as Mike Babcock said “there will be pain.”
You can call me on these if they don’t end up as I say. I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong. Regardless though, this will be an interesting season.