The Toronto Maple Leafs, according to Andrew Boehmer, are soon to be contenders for the Stanley Cup. Boehmer wrote that on July 13th, opening his article that "The Toronto Maple Leafs are fast approaching Stanley Cup contention" (Editor in Leaf). The phrase "fast approaching" can have a lot of different time-values stuffed into it. But with what the Leafs have done during the off-season, it looks more like they are heading in the wrong direction than the right one.

Betting odds for Toronto

The Leafs certainly haven't impressed anyone, in the last couple of weeks since Free Agency started, when one consults betting odds.

You can say what you want about consulting betting odds as a source, but the one thing about them is that they are largely neutral. Fans can affect them with betting trends, but then all fans of all teams would be doing that. That's not to say that betting odds are mathematically sound, in fact the opposite is true. However, even when you throw out the math involved they do provide an ordering of favorites that is far more neutral than fan or even pundit analysis. Let's look at what the betting odds imply about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

  • Odds to win the Eastern Conference: 10 to 1 with 888Sport (6th favorite)
  • Odds to win the Stanley Cup: 20 to 1 with 888Sport (tied for 12th favorite)

If Leaf fans are going to ground optimism in the upcoming season or two (or three), then it's not because of the signing of Patrick Marleau.

In fact, the signing of Marleau probably hurt the Leafs' chances more than it helped. They are locked in to a three-year deal worth $6.25M per season. That's $6.25M a season for an already-old player that is only going to get older. The only worse signing that is out there at the moment is San Jose's signing of Joe Thornton at $8M for one season.

Marleau is going to be 38 years old before the start of the regular season. His numbers are already dipping consistently for the last three seasons running. That's not a player to sign at big money, Marleau was a player to avoid or to sign at small money. His salary could handcuff Toronto to a degree for a few seasons, especially at the tail end of his contract when he's 40 years old.

There's nothing in the news lately that would suggest that the Leafs are "fast approaching Stanley Cup contention." The big deal of late is the anchored $6.25M cap hit per season that Toronto signed up for with an out-of-prime player.

Youth developing the key

If you are going to get optimistic about the Leafs getting into contention soon, then you have to hope that the under-30 players turn in big seasons in 2017/18. On that note, it's what the Leafs have done before July 1st, 2017 that could make them interesting. Frederik Andersen, Morgan Reilly, Nazem Kadri, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander are the keys. They help make the Leafs a legit playoff contender and, once in the playoffs, anything can happen.

But, keeping it real, Toronto fans should set their goals on winning a couple playoff series in the next three years combined. This is not a team that is approaching Cup contention, but one that have actually regressed a little recently. Don't be surprised if the Leafs have to get to the other side of the Marleau deal before they start to compete for high seeds and late rounds of the playoffs.