What to watch for with this season's Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock during an end of season media availability at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ont. on Thursday April 25, 2019. Ernest Doroszuk / Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia

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Turning 30 on opening night Oct. 2, Andersen talked of embracing load management after 60-plus games the past three seasons, marred by minor injuries at times. A lot of that plan will depend on the coaching staff feeling comfortable to give more games to the backup, not just undesirable back-to-backs with a tired defence.


Dubas insists Babcock is not under the gun to have a hot start coming off a third straight first-round playoff loss, but it’s clear he wants less of stubbornness in personnel decisions as he begins his fifth season. With so much roster turnover already, there might be no choice.

In the unlikely event things go right off the cliff, don’t expect coach-in-waiting Sheldon Keefe to get an immediate promotion from the Marlies. There are two new assistant coaches, Dave Hakstol and Paul McFarland.


Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott aren’t kids anymore and they’ll be expected to take another step under Babcock, hopefully a large one in April and May.

“You look at his body of work with the young guys, I think it has been great,” defenceman Morgan Rielly said of Babcock. “As a coach it can be tough, I’m sure, to manage different personalities and he’s done a good job.

“That being said, we have a ways to go to achieve the ultimate goal. There are players who want to get better and he wants them to get better. That’s really all you can ask for.

“You want to move together as a group, have a core that kind of gets going at the same time. It’s enjoyable to watch them get better and be a part of it.”


On paper, the toughest part of the 82-game slate is between Nov. 10 and Dec. 20, when the Leafs play only four at home out of 18 and have extended trips to the U.S. Southwest and Western Canada.

Another hump is from Feb. 25 to early April, meeting the Lightning three times, along with Washington, Nashville, Boston and a California road trip.


Both have been working out solo at the practice rink for weeks. Dubas has forecasted Hyman’s knee surgery and the shoulder repair done on Dermott will sideline them most or all of October.

Forward Garret Wilson (hamstring) will miss almost all of camp. Marlie hopeful Joseph Woll has a broken finger, which will give Ian Scott and Kasimir Kaskisuo an early hold on the Marlies crease.