The 2020-21 NHL season is scheduled to begin Jan. 13. With training camps opening this week, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lines for each of the 31 teams. Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will play in the North Division.
Coach: Sheldon Keefe (second season)
Last season: 36-25-9, .579 points percentage; eighth place in Eastern Conference, lost to Columbus Blue Jackets in Stanley Cup Qualifiers
1. Thornton's influence
Joe Thornton signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs on Oct. 16, a display of faith from management in the 41-year-old ability to still play at a high level and provide leadership entering his 23rd NHL season. He's penciled in as the third-line center and a key member of the power play, where his elite playmaking will be highlighted. Thornton leads active NHL players in assists (1,089) and power-play points (540; 143 goals, 397 assists). He scored 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in 70 games for the San Jose Sharks last season.
2. Andersen's future
Frederik Andersen received a vote of confidence from general manager Kyle Dubas during the offseason, but the 31-year-old goalie is entering the final season of his contract and faces an uncertain future. He ranks fifth in wins (136), third in save percentage (.916, minimum 100 games) and seventh in games played (244) in Maple Leafs history, but he is 10-14 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with Toronto and has yet to win a series. Given the compressed 56-game schedule, the Maple Leafs won't be shy to use backup Jack Campbell to periodically give Andersen some rest.
3. Injection of grit
Forward Wayne Simmonds (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and defenseman Zach Bogosian (6-2, 200), each signed as a free agent this offseason and should add some much needed grit to a team Dubas said lost too many puck battles during its five-game loss to the Blue Jackets in the Qualifiers. Simmonds said he has fully recovered from surgeries addressing hernia, hip and adductor problems in 2018; Bogosian, who won the Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, should be a steady presence in the defensive zone.