Toronto Maple Leafs Fans Gotta Keep It Positive

TORONTO, ON- Kyle Dubas file photos from the Nylander signing press meeting.(Rene Johnston/Toronto Star) (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- Kyle Dubas file photos from the Nylander signing press meeting.(Rene Johnston/Toronto Star) (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a so-so start to the season.

After back-to-back losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins this week, Toronto Maple Leafs fans are acting like the season is over already.

Time to dial it down and relax, my friends.

In the comments section, on Facebook and on Twitter (let alone in my real life) I’ve been inundated with Leafs fans who are angry, disappointed, fed up and frustrated with the team.

They tell me the team isn’t tough enough to win. (It is).

They say the Leafs will be hard pressed to make the playoffs. (They are the biggest lock to make it in hockey).

They say they have no heart. (Nonsense).

No leadership. (Please).

I think most people are pretty psyched about this version of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s just that negative people tend to go out of their way to make their views known more than positive people do.

They’ve got crazy amounts of talent, Auston Matthews is easily going to end up being the best player in the history of the franchise (and I say that as the world’s leading fan of Mats Sundin), and you can go down the lineup – Marner, Nylander, Tavares, Barrie, Rielly, Muzzin, Dermott – it’s a crazy team that resembles an allstar team.

And it’s deep – Alex Kerfoot hasn’t missed a beat filling in for John Tavares, and Trevor Moore is going to be the best fourth line player in the world once Zach Hyman comes back.

And that’s not even mentioning new fan-favorite Ilya Mikheyev who might have one of the best dollar for dollar contracts in the entire league.

But What About Those Criticisms?

I’ve been vocal about Mike Babcock. I think he should have been replaced in the summer, and I think he should be replaced now. But not because of the team’s current record – in spite of Babcock, they’re actually doing quite well.

The Leafs have a PDO of 98 – over time, a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage will combine to equal 100.  Anything under 100 is unlucky, and anything over is lucky.

The Leafs – despite some of the best shooting talent in the NHL – are currently not shooting for a high percentage, while their goaltending has been under .900.

Both numbers are guaranteed to rise, and when they do, the Leafs will get better results.

I know people get frustrated when you give excuses, but the fact is, hockey is a game where luck plays a big role. These are not excuses, so much as they’re actual explanations for why things happened the way they did.

The team might not be getting the results we want to see, but if we look at virtually every underlying stat, we see that they’re actually playing well.

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There is an extremely high probability that this team starts to get better results.

For example, they’ve played the whole year so far without two core players and they’ve played the last four games without John Tavares.

People love to point out that dating back about 60 games, the Leafs are “just a .500 team.”   This isn’t a fair assessment because the fact is, the Leafs have been missing two core players for almost every one of those games.   Sometimes three or four.

Besides, they’ve been fairly unlucky over this period.  And 50 of those games featured a team with replacement players in huge roles (Marleau, Hainsey, Zaitsev, Brown).

General manager Kyle Dubas does not deserve any criticism.  He fixed Lamoriello’s salary cap problems.  He signed all the Leafs young stars.  Since he’s been hired, he’s added one of the best players in the NHL (Tavares) one of the best young defensive players (Kerfoot) and two top pairing defenseman (Barrie, Muzzin) to say nothing of his excellent drafting (Sandin, Robertson) and the amazing signing of Ilya Mikheyev.

This team isn’t missing any leadership, and it isn’t lacking heart.  Those are simply things people lazily apply to players who body check a lot.  We live in the centre of the hockey universe and we should be more sophisticated than to complain about this kind of outdated mumbo jumbo.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are built the right way, and built for playoff success. (You might think they should be tougher, and I know people who change things are often criticized heavily for it, but I guarantee you Kyle Dubas’ focus on skill will pay off).

The Toronto Maple Leafs have the best roster in the NHL.  Their early season results are belied by their strong underlying stats and the fact that they are guaranteed to be better once Travis Dermott, Zach Hyman and John Tavares are back.

The salary cap problems can easily be rectified with a trade of Cody Ceci, and it’s perfectly fine to overpay your elite players if that’s what it takes to keep them.

The Leafs are on the right track.  I believe in their management, and I know for a fact that they deserve to have a better record than they have right now.

This team is a 100% lock to make the playoffs, and they should still be Stanley Cup favorites. (Tampa technically has that title, but I’ve said all along they’re overrated).

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It’s ten games in to the season.  It’s way, way too early to give up on this team, or it’s players, or it’s philosophy.