As the Toronto Maple Leafs start their post-Olympic break drive down the stretch Thursday against the New York Islanders, here are the five things that will figure prominently in their playoff success ... or failure.
1. Sweating the trade deadline
A consequence of the salary cap world is that general manager Dave Nonis must endure questions about major moves when he hasn’t seen his whole team together yet this season. It’s highly unlikely Nonis would act rash on or before March 5, having showed great patience when the Leafs had an early winter slump and post-Winter Classic hiccup that had some calling for coach Randy Carlyle’s job. With the Leafs losing just twice in regulation since Jan. 12 and Dave Bolland’s imminent return, there is reason the Leafs could be even better than their recent streak. All of which should make the Leafs mere window-shoppers next week, though a minor depth move is probable. Nonis is adamant he won’t chase rental players or cash out potential UFAs such as Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin and James Reimer to avoid contract hassles later in the summer.