Toronto Maple Leafs: Lessons Learned from the Raptors Playoff Run

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: The Toronto Raptors pose with the Larry O'Brien trophy after winning the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors during Game Six of the NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: The Toronto Raptors pose with the Larry O'Brien trophy after winning the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors during Game Six of the NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 6: Matt Duchene #95 of the Ottawa Senators battles with the puck with Jake Muzzin #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on February 6, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 6: Matt Duchene #95 of the Ottawa Senators battles with the puck with Jake Muzzin #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on February 6, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Team effort wins titles

It seems cliche to suggest, but in sports, it remains tried and true to have a full team effort in order to win a championship. While in basketball there’s a bigger reliance on winning with a few strong players carrying the load, everyone needs to pull their weight in order for a title to become a reality.

Sure, Leonard was the biggest reason the Raptors reached the top of the basketball by playing the role of hero time and time again. But Lowry also did his part, as did Gasol, Green, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Pascal Siakam among others to help make it possible.

In the series-deciding game, Lowry had a dominating performance in the first quarter, Siakam was effective at both ends of the floor, VanVleet made key shots when he needed to, and Ibaka, Green, and Gasol did their part on the defensive end to keep the Warriors in check.

All this on a night where Leonard wasn’t his usual dominant self. Everyone on the roster came through in the biggest game and as a result, they are now the champions.

This lesson easily applies to the Toronto Maple Leafs because, in these playoffs, part of the reason the team couldn’t advance was that not everyone was pulling their weight. Auston Matthews was a man on a mission and put the team on his back, but the same can’t really be said for Patrick Marleau, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares among others.

Morgan Rielly was strong on the offensive end while the Jake Muzzin-Nikita Zaitsev pairing neutralized the Patrice Bergeron a lot, but the likes of Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott weren’t at their best because of the injuries they were recovering from. Frederik Andersen played masterfully in the first six games but fell apart in the deciding game with two goals he would love to have back.

If not everyone on the roster is at their sharpest and doing there in the big games, then it is extremely difficult, borderline impossible, for them to go deep in the playoffs and have a shot at glory.

Regardless of the circumstances in place (whether that be injuries or a Nazem Kadri suspension), each player has to play their part in ensuring their team wins.

So as the Raptors begin their summer of celebrations for a monumental moment in franchise history, the Toronto Maple Leafs can take some lessons from the run that made it possible. Experience is important, go bold when necessary, and a team effort makes winning more possible.

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If the Toronto Maple Leafs want to have that moment for their own, then following those steps could be really helpful in their quest back to the top of the hockey world. Until then, they will need to take notes in preparation for another chance to be on the right side of history.