What They’re Saying About The Toronto Maple Leafs

With a new season come new hockey magazines, many of which offer some insight into the Toronto Maple Leafs. After the jump, Leafs Nation will look at what eight different publications had to say about the fortunes of the blue and white – ranked by where each publication projects the Leafs to finish in 2011-12.

Hockey Prospectus 2011-12

Projected Finish: 8th, Eastern Conference

The Report: The biggest of the hockey annuals clocks in at just under 500 pages, and spends anywhere from 11 – 14 on each team. Toronto’s write-up features a long team essay, along with 33 individual player write-ups. More statistics-based than any of the other publications listed here, Prospectus is the only publication to use a stats-based team projection guide. Tom Awad’s VUKOTA system has been in place for two seasons now, and during that time has proven remarkably accurate – giving better projections than pretty much any of the other hockey annuals. The Maple Leafs’ breakdown provides a comprehensive look at all positions, and offers an optimistic appraisal of James Reimer’s ability to stay healthy. Full disclosure: I worked on the Prospectus magazine, though not on the Leafs’ segment.

Price: $9.90, Available online.

McKeen’s Hockey Pool Yearbook

Projected Finish: 9th, Eastern Conference

The Report: Properly a pool yearbook rather than a general guide, McKeen’s spends half a page giving a brief overview of each team and then focuses on high-end scouting reports for the team’s most significant offensive players, top goaltender, and best prospects. Despite the lack of length in the Leaf’s write-up, the magazine does a good job recapping 2010-11 and projecting in to 2011-12, and they point to the performance of James Reimer as the key factor in the Leafs’ success this coming season. The best part of the write-up, by far, however are the player profiles: comprehensive scouting reports that make the annual both unique and essential. Full disclosure: I received a copy of this publication for review purposes.

Price: $7.99 at newsstands, $14.99 online.

Poolers’ Guide Hockey

Projected Finish: 10th, Eastern Conference

The Report: Poolers’ Guide has a unique – and busy – design that at times makes comprehension more than a little challenging. Although Poolers’ Guide is a poolers’ guide (no kidding!) the magazine does devote significant space to both a recap of 2010-11 and a projection for 2011-12 – though the Leafs’ projection is more based on fantasy hockey than team outlook. The team write-up is surprisingly good; the magazine’s biggest weakness is that it projects the players on each team but fails to include even a paragraph of explanation for each one. In any case, Poolers’ Guide gets a lot of things write in its Leafs’ article – noting the importance of the addition of Liles to the power play, and that James Reimer’s performance is the most important factor in 2011-12 success.

Price: $9.99, Available online.

The Hockey News Yearbook

Projected Finish: 10th, Eastern Conference

The Report: Unlike many other publications, which concentrate many write-ups in the hands of a small group of writers, THN gets individual essays for each team from a beat reporter covering the club. This is both a strength and a weakness of the publication; a strength in that each essay is written by a man who knows the team intimately, a weakness in that the quality of essay for each team can vary widely, based on the quality of the writer. THN’s write-up is, by necessity, an overview rather than a comprehensive look – Leafs’ writer Michael Traikos gives a general positional portrait and focuses largely on the off-season changes the club has experienced. Quite properly, the focus is on James Reimer (who also gets a feature article earlier in the publication) but the projected finish indicates THN really isn’t confident that he will repeat last year’s performance over a full season.

Price: $9.99, Available online.

Sporting News Hockey

Projected Finish: T-10th, Eastern Conference

The Report: The Sporting News’ hockey annual overall is surprisingly strong, comparing well to other publications. Their Leafs’ essay does a good job of detailing off-season changes in the front office and behind the bench, as well as on the ice, and projects that those changes will improve the team overall – even while they forecast a tie with Carolina for 10th overall in the East (this is based on team grades – SN doesn’t actually have a Conference-based standings list on its predictions page). The report notes depth at forward as a strength, but inaccurately lists defensive depth as a weakness.

Price: $9.99 at newsstands.

The Sports Forecaster

Projected Finish: 11th, Eastern Conference

The Report: Another magazine that is technically more for fantasy hockey enthusiasts, Sports Forecaster has a three paragraph write-up for each team and then blurbs and projections for a wide range of players. The Leafs’ article is the most barebones overview possible, and focuses attention on the off-season moves and Ron Wilson’s status, failing to point to James Reimer as the most important factor in the Leafs’ playoff hopes. The projections are fairly comprehensive but the players paragraphs aren’t overly compelling – in focusing on broad coverage of a lot of players, the magazine has sacrificed comprehensive write-ups.

Price: $9.99, Available online.

Nation Network Fantasy Hockey Primer

Projected Finish: N/A

The Report: As Leafs Nation currently offers this magazine for sale, we will avoid editorial comment here and simply note what the magazine provides. No team write-up is included – just player projections along with some general articles. However, the fantasy projections are broad – 500-odd player write-ups, along with statistical data. Phil Kessel, with 70 points, is projected as the Leafs’ leading scorer.

Price: $5.00, Available online.

The Hockey News Ultimate Fantasy Pool Guide

Projected Finish: N/A

The Report: THN’s other fall annual focuses specifically on hockey pools rather than broader league coverage. As a result, its team page offers just the basics: player point projections, top-10 prospects, and a single general overview of the team along with a depth chart and some statistical data. Aside from the team essay, the annual does offer a wealth of statistical data on the individual player pages, along with a brief blurb for 325-odd players (the magazine offers 500+ projections, but in-depth analysis only of the most important players). Draft guru Murray Townsend’s projections are typically more conservative than most publications – and consequently more realistic. In Toronto’s case, he projects just one player – Phil Kessel – to surpass the 60-point mark.

Price: $7.99, Available online.

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