The only thing certain in 2013 for any hockey fan is uncertainty. The NHL labour dispute continues to drag on and despite some hope in recent days, the chance of any hockey being played this winter is tenuous at best.
Assuming hockey is played this season, how will the Maple Leafs fare with a shortened schedule? In recent years they have started strong and faded down the stretch due to one shaky month. The key to success in a 48-game season will be racking up the wins early on as teams struggle to find their game legs. Toronto may have an edge in this category as they have several young players who have been able to keep their competitive edge while suiting up in the AHL and European hockey leagues.
Who will be the starting goaltender for the Maple Leafs? The Roberto Luongo rumours have certainly died down since the lockout began but you can be sure that they will ramp up the second a deal is finally reached. Toronto fans should be very wary if the blue and white start the season with the duo of Reimer & Scrivens tending goal. Luongo could be the difference between participating in, or watching the playoffs this (next?) season.
With the World Junior Hockey Championship set to wrap up on Saturday, there’s certainly more buzz surrounding the likes of Leaf prospect Morgan Rielly than ever before. The youngster has been a steady presence on Team Canada’s blueline with a solid 1 G and 3 A in 5 games played thus far - not to mention he also has a +4 rating. It will be interesting to see if he’s given a legitimate shot of making the Leaf squad or if they (finally) take some time to let him develop in the minor leagues.
The NHL has hinted that January 11th will be the drop-dead date to get a deal done to start hockey on January 19th. As the clock continues to tick down on the 2012-13 season, all Maple Leaf fans can do at this point is wait…