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2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

2016-17 NHL Season Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs

It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.

Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

How they did last season: 29-42-11 (69 points), 8th in the Atlantic, 16th in the Eastern Conference. Did not make the playoffs.

Notable acquisitions: C Auston Matthews, LW Matt Martin, D Roman Polak, D Nikita Zaitsev, G Frederik Andersen, G Jhonas Enroth

Notable departures: RW Michael Grabner, RW P.A. Parenteau, D Stuart Percy, G Jonathan Bernier

When they will play the Caps: Nov. 26 in Toronto; Jan. 3 in Washington; April 4 in Toronto

RELATED: CAPS' HOLTBY BEGINS RAMPING UP FOR WORLD CUP

Analysis: Get coach of the future: check.

Get potential star in the draft: check.

Get a starter in net: check.

The rebuild seems to be going just fine thus far in Toronto. After what we all expected to be a tough season, Toronto finished with the worst record in the league. Remarkably, Edmonton didn’t win the top overall pick for once and the Maple Leafs got the chance to select the top player in the draft, Auston Matthews.

Matthews does not appear to be one of those “generational” talents like Connor McDavid, but still looks like he will be a very good player. He will join a stable of young talent that the Leafs hope to develop this year such as William Nylander and Mitch Marner.

Mercifully, the Jonathan Bernier/James Reimer goalie tandem is no more. Instead, the Leafs have bet the farm on Frederik Andersen as they traded a first-round and a second-round draft pick to Anaheim to get him. That’s a pretty big price tag for a goalie who I’m not all that convinced can be more than just an average starter. With Jhonas Enroth as his backup, he’s clearly the top guy and will be expected to start 55-60 games.

The trade was also curious in terms of timing because the Leafs are still quite a ways away from being anything close to competitive for a playoff spot. It seems a bit odd to bring in a 26-year-old netminder to be the goalie of the future when the future is still probably another two or more years away.

All that said, Andersen is certainly better than what they had.

Season prediction: This is a critical year for Toronto not because they are going to do anything in the standings, but because they can’t lose sight of the overall goal.

The worst and hardest part of a rebuild is not tearing the team down, it’s building it back up. They have young talent, now they have to develop it. That means there will be more growing pains as the team turns its roster over to inexperienced youngsters.

One need only look at the team’s cap situation to understand what this season means for Toronto. Brooks Laich and Joffrey Lupul are still on the books as well as Nathan Horton and Stephane Robidas, two players who will never step foot on the ice. Those aren’t the kind of contracts you find on the rosters of teams looking for a playoff push.

The goal for this season is not to win, it's to develop players like Matthews, Nylander and Marner as well as determine if Andersen is indeed good enough to carry the load as a starter by himself. The fans and the management need to keep sight of the overall goal of rebuiling the team and be patient.

Patience, however, can sometimes be a struggle in Toronto.

MORE HOCKEY: DIPAULI LIKED THE 'FIT' IN PITTSBURGH BETTER

2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS

Pacific Division
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks

Central Division
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
— Montreal Canadiens
— Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning

Metropolitan Division
— Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
— Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
— New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming soon)

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Being an Olympic hero is not all T.J. Oshie has in common with 2018 U.S. Women's hockey team

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Being an Olympic hero is not all T.J. Oshie has in common with 2018 U.S. Women's hockey team

Four years ago, Capitals forward T.J. Oshie was the shootout king in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. This time around Gigi Marvin was one of the Americans who provided the extra-time heroics for Team USA at Pyeongchang, carrying the women’s hockey team to the gold medal.

Ironically enough, they both were the King and Queen of their high school’s dance back in 2005.

Marvin and Oshie both went to Warroad High School in Minnesota. They graduated from the same class in 2005. Nearly every high school in the country would wish for just one Olympian, this one got two legends in one class.

Oshie famously took the puck six times for Team USA in a shootout to beat Russia back in 2014. Marvin scored the first tally of the shootout in the gold medal game against Canada. The United States would go on to win the match in seven rounds.

Oshie would go on to congratulate his fellow Warroad alum after the match.

Whoever cast the deciding votes, must have known that these two destined for glory. One could now call them the King and Queen of Olympic shootouts.

RELATED: USA WOMEN WIN GOLD OVER RIVAL CANADA

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Caps prospect watch: Boyd dedicates 4-goal performance to daughter after week in the hospital

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USA TODAY Sports

Caps prospect watch: Boyd dedicates 4-goal performance to daughter after week in the hospital

It would have been understandable if Travis Boyd struggled this past week. Something more important was on his mind.

Boyd spent the week in the hospital with his daughter, Hayden, who had been experiencing pain in her throat. He spent the enitre week in the hospital, not leaving until Hershey's game against Laval.

Boyd turned this trial into something incredible as he scored four goals Friday in Hershey's 6-3 win.

Boyd spoke about the ordeal with Zach Fisch of the Bears Radio Network (transcription via RMNB).

“It actually started after the game last Sunday against Rochester," he said. "I went straight from the rink to Urgent Care and then from Urgent Care to the ER. Never left the hospital until Friday morning. We had a successful surgery on Thursday night. Basically just a bad infection in her throat that had to be surgically removed. They had to surgically go in and kind of remove the bacteria and drain out the fluids. Everything went well. She’s doing well.”

Following the game, Boyd dedicated his performance to Hayden.

A four-goal game at the AHL level would have been an incredible accomplishment on its own. The fact that it came during such a trying time for him makes this a truly inspirational story.

You can watch highlights of the game including all four of Boyd's goals here:

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S UPDATED CAPS’ PROSPECT RANKINGS HERE

Other prospect notes:

  • In the Bears' game Friday against Laval, Riley Barber dropped the gloves with Markus Eisenchmid.  Barber was given an extra minor and game misconduct for instigating the fight in the final five minutes of the game. That penalty carries with it an automatic one-game suspension which Barber served Saturday. Here's a look at the fight.

  • Liam O'Brien had a pair of two-goal games over the week, scoring twice against Laval Friday and then two more against Toronto on Monday. Of his four goals, three of them were empty netters.
  • As the Capitals prepare for their Stadium Series game in Annapolis on March 3, Annapolis mayor Gavin Buckley—a native of Perth, Australia—made a plea to see Nathan Walker recalled for the game.  “I’ll have to put a quick shout out to the one Australian that’s playing for the Caps now, Nathan Walker. If you could just bring him up for this game, that’d be great. Because an Australian being in a hockey game is like a Jamaican bobsled team. It doesn’t happen very often.”

  • Brian Pinho was honored Friday in Providence College's Senior Night. He has served as captain of the team this season and as an assistant captain in his junior year. He spoke with The Cowl on what being a leader on the team means to him. "I think being a leader of this team is a great honor, but also a huge responsibility. I try to keep everything fun at the rink, while also bringing some intensity and competing hard every day.” You can read the full story here.
  • Goalie Adam Carlson, who was on loan to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, was reassigned to the Kansas City Mavericks also of the ECHL. He started two games for his new team and turned aside 42 of the 48 total shots he faced.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in his week's updated rankings.