Maple Leafs Focused on Future; Fans Must Preach Patience


Buying into the “rebuilding” strategy doesn’t appear to be overly difficult for the majority of the Toronto Maple Leafs fan-base.

The Maple Leafs have been mediocre at best for a long time. In fact, given that they have made the playoffs just once since the lockout in 2004-2005, one could say they’ve been bad for a long time.

In my opinion, a lot of fans have been waiting for this point for many years. It seems that the strategy has always been to tinker, retool, spend, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, etc.

It hasn’t worked. It doesn’t work. Time to try something new.

Looking around the league, the most successful teams (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Nashville – just to name a few) have all drafted & developed their core.

Sure, they make trades and signings as well – as Nashville just did in adding Cody Franson & Mike Santorelli on Sunday – but it happens after they’ve built a strong foundation with their core, not when there are other major holes on the roster.

The Leafs are quite a ways away from that point. Their “core” is undefined, and very young. Right now it’s a question mark to even know who would be included as a part of the core. This should be more clearly defined in the off-season after the draft, as everything hinges on what happens there.

So what’s next? How will fans react to this next rebuilding phase? I’ve heard a lot of fans noting “what’s the difference? They’re not winning now anyway?” While this is true, I think the next 2-4 years will be a completely new challenge for the Leafs and their fans (with any luck).

Some fans will be able to look towards the future, take the lumps & losses and understand that better days are coming, while others will give up hope and lose faith in the rebuild plan.

How does the current team factor into to the rebuild?

There is plenty of speculation over who will be with the team after the deadline passes, and into the off-season. In my opinion, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander are the only obvious Maple Leafs keepers. Rielly has shown flashes this year, and continues to impress with his maturation over the past year and a half.

While we haven’t seen Nylander at the NHL level yet, there’s enough promise to keep him around and let him develop & learn the North American game on the roster next year.

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Outside of those two, I’d guess the Maple Leafs would like to get another look at Bernier (maybe a bridge contract), and would also like to hold on to James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri (price pending) as they can play essential roles in the development of some of the younger players.

There are also some nice pieces with the Marlies that the Leafs will be able to get a more in-depth look at as the season winds down (such as Connor Brown, newly acquired Brendan Leipsic and Frederik Gauthier).

Another interesting part of this rebuild is the business side. If the Leafs are truly rebuilding, it is assumed they won’t be spending to the cap. In most markets, this would lead to lower ticket prices, however this is not something the Leafs will need to do.

There is such a demand for Leafs tickets, that they can afford to “lose” a few customers – as there would just be someone right behind them waiting to buy their ticket.

I think it’s up in the air right now whether the Leafs lower their prices, but I think that they will announce a price freeze on tickets. This will make it sound as though the fans are benefiting from ticket prices that aren’t rising, as opposed to benefiting from lowering ticket prices.

I actually consider it an exciting time in Leaf-land. I am fully on-board with this rebuilding path. The one suggestion I would have, is to increase their scouting budget, and soak up all the advice they can regarding how to proceed.

It’s a different situation for Nonis (if he’s still around), as he isn’t overly experienced in the rebuild phase, and Shanahan’s only experience is with the player safety department. So leaning on the experience of others should help.

Regardless, the fans must preach patience, and show a level of faith in Leaf management that they know how to turn this ship around. Whether that faith leads to success as a franchise, is the biggest question.

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