The Toronto Maple Leafs were the worst team in the NHL last season, but matters are (finally) starting to look up at the Big Smoke.
Toronto was in a clear reconstruct since Brendan Shanahan took over the reins as team president in 2014, and Shanny has made some fantastic strides in a bid to generate the Leafs relevant again.
Bringing in Mike Babcock as coach has already started to pay dividends, and an influx of young talent emphasized by 2016 No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews has fans from the GTA eager for the first time in quite some time.
For a franchise which spent the better part of a decade treading water as a result of questionable leading office decisions, that means something. Here’s a look at the Maple Leafs’ chances in the upcoming season, courtesy of BetOnline.
Stanley Cup +5000
Should you ever want to get a dig at your Leafs fan friend, just mention that the calendar year 1967. They’ll know what you are referring to. By the time the 2016-17 NHL season wraps up, it will be 50 years since the Stanley Cup came to Toronto. The Leafs are improving, but don’t bank on that trend changing this season.
Eastern Conference +2500
Toronto sits tied with the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators for its 11th-worst Opportunities to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup final, before Buffalo (+2800), Carolina (+3300) and Columbus (+3300).
The Leafs have been in the bottom of the barrel in this regard over the previous couple of decades, so at least it shows oddsmakers are starting to show them some respect.
Atlantic Division +1500
Tampa Bay (+130), Florida (+400), Boston (+650), Detroit (+650), Montreal (+700) and Buffalo (+1500) are deservedly ranked ahead of the Buds in divisional futures. Provincial rival Ottawa sits connected together with the Maple Leafs in +1500. That seems pretty reasonable to me.
Point total OVER/UNDER 81.5
Considering that the NHL’s new point system was introduced in 2005, Toronto has eclipsed 81 points six times. On the other hand, the Leafs have gone above that amount just once in the previous four campaigns. In 2014-15 they ended up with a pitiful 68 points, simply to put up 69 last year.
To view 81.5 on the board is a bit surprising, but it goes to show that this group is moving in the right direction. I’m not convinced enough to see much progress just yet, however, so I would take the UNDER in this situation.
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