The 2019-20 NHL season felt a lot like many recent seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs: They roared through the regular season ... and came up short when it came time for the postseason.
But, there are significant wrinkles in the 2020-21 campaign that benefit Auston Matthews & Co.; specifically, the new division alignment (and not having to face the Tampa Bay Lightning or Boston Bruins until the final four). So what do they have in store for fans this season? Here's everything you need to know prior to opening night:
Big question: Is this the year?
Asking this question has been an annual tradition for 54 years. It's usually about the Stanley Cup. It's still about the Stanley Cup this season, but it can also apply to another query about the Maple Leafs: Is this the year they get out of the first round of the playoffs? That hasn't happened since 2004, as Toronto currently has a four-season streak of opening-round eliminations.
The Leafs have surrounded John Tavares and their dynamic young core with some veteran players, as GM Kyle Dubas deftly maneuvered under the flat salary cap. Whether it's winning the first round or winning the last round, the big question remains: Is this the year?