Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it. Our friends over at bestbettingwebsites.org.uk have reported that betting sites are slashing their odds on the Maple Leafs current squad collapsing in the 2016 – 2017 Season.

With a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames in the books, the Leafs are now one period shy of the one-third mark of the NHL regular season. The team has been winning and winning regularly since a couple of embarrassing losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators. The Leafs’ 15-9-3 record has them two points ahead of their 27-game pace over each of the last two seasons:

Season W L O Points
2015 15 9 3 33
2014 14 10 3 31
2013 15 11 1 31

But is their position in the standings masking poor underlying play again?

There’s no doubt that the Leafs’ overall possession game is better. They’re getting outshot far less frequently, and their possession metrics (Corsi and Fenwick) have both improved.

Leafs 5v5 Shot Data by Season [% of Games Played]
Season Leafs Outshoot Opponent Opponent Outshoots Leafs
2012-13 23.6% 76.4%
2013-14 19.5% 78.0%
2014-15 33.3% 63.0%

There are a couple other key differences in the way the Leafs have played this season compared to the past two. Possession-wise, the Leafs pretty much got buried in all score situations over the past two seasons. Leading, trailing and tied – the Leafs never came close to controlling the play.

There’s been a perception this season that the Leafs just “don’t show up” some nights to play. And the stats may actually bear that out a little bit. This season when the Leafs are trailing hockey games, they’re possession metrics are only better than those of the historically-outpossessed Buffalo Sabres. In a sense, they pretty much pack it in once they’re down a goal or two. But when tied or leading at 5v5, the Leafs are actually close to an average possession team. Small sample sizes may play a small role in these numbers, but this will certainly be something to keep a close eye on as the season progresses.

Back to the original question – are the Leafs due for another collapse?

The above graph shows the Leafs’ cumulative PDO by season since the lockout year. While their PDO has been trending upwards over the past few weeks, they’re still riding the percentages to a lesser extent than they were at this point in each of the past two seasons. There are still plenty of unanswered questions regarding the sustainability of team-level PDO, but the Leafs have now played two full seasons worth of hockey since the puck dropped on the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season…

And over that span, they’ve maintained a 5v5 PDO over 101. While I’m a firm believer in possession over shot quality, I’m not averse to the idea that a team’s “long-term natural PDO” could fall anywhere between 98 and 102.

So…are the Leafs due for another collapse? It could still very well happen, but this time around, they’ve definitely got a better chance at keeping the ship steered towards a playoff birth.