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The Maple Leafs' offseason game plan: Help wanted on D

The Maple Leafs will be looking for more than another "learning experience" via first-round playoff loss next season. How do they get there? Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically or by losing in the postseason -- we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2017-18, along with three keys to its offseason and a way-too-early prediction for what 2018-19 will hold.


What went wrong

Would the Toronto Maple Leafs (49-26-70, 105 points) have fared better against the Pittsburgh Penguins than the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs?

Under the old conferencewide one-vs.-eight format, they would have faced the defending champs, so this is not mere navel-gazing. Instead, they were slotted against a Bruins team that was built for playoff success and had a dominant top line that neutralized the Auston Matthews unit for the Leafs.

Beyond that, Toronto's defense wasn't up to standards. Nazem Kadri's indefensible, immature hit on Tommy Wingels cost the Leafs valuable depth at center for three games. And Frederik Andersen morphed into Craig Anderson, looking unbeatable for stretches in between other stretches of looking very beatable.