TORONTO – The Maple Leafs returned to the NHL post season in 2013 after a long nine-year absence. It is only when you verbalize “nine-year absence” does it really sink in that this organization floundered for so many years. They did come close to breaking the skid several times but were eliminated by late charges from other teams.
In the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Leafs acquitted themselves well against the eventual Eastern Conference winner, the Boston Bruins.
But it was another late charge by the opposition that did them in. The Bruins’ now famous rally with minutes left in regulation, followed by their overtime win sent the Leafs home far too early for their front office and their fans.
The taste of the post season should have whetted the appetite of the organization for a steady, long-term presence in the chase for the Cup. And despite this year’s success there are still some major holes to be filled in the lineup.
Defensively, the club yielded a total of 128 goals on the season with 100 of them coming on even strength. Their average was 2.67 for 17th in the league.
On special teams, the Leafs were a mixed bag of results with the club scoring on just over 18% of their chances. However, on the penalty kill side of the ledger, Toronto was second in the league with an 87.9% kill rate, second only to the Ottawa Senators.
On offense, the Leafs seemed a bit Jekyll and Hyde in their results for 2013. With 145 goals scored, they were good for 6th in the league and a 3.02 goals per game rate. Their goals per period were consistent with 46, 50 and 47 goals scored in successive regulation periods. The Leafs’ problem during the regular season was the lack of ramped-up intensity on offense to match the opposition. Their defensive corps began to break down as the game wore. They surrendered 28, 49 and 51 goals in successive periods.
The blueliners in Toronto and in the system are quality and should stand the Leafs in good stead as the seasons come. But they need help. If the offense fails to find a higher gear as games wear on in a 48-game season, what will it look like in a full 82-game slate?
With a respectable defense, and a reasonable offense there is really one place left to look on the roster. The Leafs have a quality goalie in James Reimer but is he the long-term to answer the Toronto need for the post season?
If there was ever an inconsistent series of statistics it would those of Reimer. On the season he was 19-8-5 with four shutouts. His rankings for various categories ranged from 4th (shutouts) to 21st in GAA (2.46). His primary backup is Ben Scrivens who was 7-9-0 on the season.
If the Maple Leafs see themselves in the post season in the near and distant future, they need help in the wings and the net. They can certainly build their wingers up in the secondary rounds and their defense is solid. But they will pick a goaltender in this position.
The second-ranked European goalie in this year’s draft is Ebbe Sionas. Sionas moved from the Swedish U18 league to the U20 league in 20-12-2013. He also skated internationally for Sweden and was the goalie for the U18 and U19 sides. He was particularly effective in the U18 games with a 2.66 GAA and .918 SV%.
At 5’11” and 180 pounds, the left-hander has decent size and speed. His agility and side to side movement are good but need some work. The 18-year old Sionas progressed well this season with increasing talent and abilities in the opposition. Pro Hockey News sees Sionas as a goalie prospect worthy of a first round selection and one that would fit the Toronto Maple Leafs’ long-term need in net.
“With the 21st pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs select goaltender Ebbe Sionas of Allmänna Idrottsklubben Ishockeyförening (AIK)”