Toronto Maple Leafs: 2013 season preview

New general manager Dave Nonis takes control of a team that hasn't made the playoffs since two lockouts ago, while Leafs fans howl for him to acquire a reliable goaltender (Roberto Luongo?).

New GM Nonis expected to upgrade goaltending

Phil Kessel set career highs with 37 goals and 82 points last season, but Toronto missed the playoffs for the seventh straight time. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Key Arrivals: F Jay McClement, F Keith Aucoin, F James van Riemsdyk.

Key Departures: F Joey Crabb, G Jonas Gustavsson, F Colby Armstrong, D Luke Schenn, goalie coach Francois Allaire.

Key Decisions: Fired GM/president Brian Burke; promoted Dave Nonis to general manager; traded D Luke Schenn to Philadelphia for F James van Riemsdyk; traded G Jonas Gustavsson's rights to Winnipeg.

2011-12 record: 35-37-10, finished 13th in Eastern Conference.

Last year's story

The Leafs became the NHL team with the longest playoff drought after Florida broke through that barrier by winning the Southeast Division. Toronto hasn't made it to the post-season since before the 2004-05 lockout, but last season they flipped the script. In recent years the Leafs had typically dug a huge hole and then teased their fans with a desperate and doomed playoff chase in the final weeks. In 2011-12 they were in the mix for a berth as the New Year arrived, despite several early-season challenges (most notably goalie James Reimer's head injury), but then swooned so prohibitively that nearly every player lost confidence, with prickly head coach Ron Wilson replaced by Randy Carlyle, the bench boss who took the Ducks to the Stanley Cup when now-ex Toronto GM Brian Burke was also in Anaheim.

Joffrey LupulJake Gardiner and Tyler Bozak would be on the very short list of Leafs who exceeded expectations in 2011-12, with Phil Kessel matching.

This year's outlook

With the moves Tampa Bay, Carolina and Buffalo have made to get back into the post-season, you just can't logically pick the Leafs to make the playoffs. It would require substantial improvements in net and on the penalty kill. It remains to be seen if a Reimer-Ben Scrivens combo plays out any better than Reimer-Jonas Gustavsson, or if new GM Dave Nonis, who ascended to the job with the surprise firing of Burke 10 days before the start of the season, can add a goalie via trade (Roberto Luongo rumours are running hot).

Nikolai Kulemin is coming off a terrible season and needs to get near or above his 30-goal pace of two years ago. Also, John-Michael Liles is one to watch after being the most emblematic Leaf last season: His terrific puck-moving skills helped Toronto get off to a positive won-loss mark at the halfway point, but when he came back from a concussion in early 2012, neither he nor the Leafs were the same. 


Chris Iorfida

Senior Writer

Chris Iorfida, based in Toronto, has been with CBC since 2002 and written on subjects as diverse as politics, business, health, sports, arts and entertainment, science and technology.