With a new decade upon us, there is nothing but optimism for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After what could be described as the worst decade in Toronto Maple Leafs history, it shouldn’t be tough to excel on the previous 10 years.
The current roster is more talented than ever and is signed to long-term contracts. Auston Matthews and William Nylander are signed until 2024, and John Tavares and Mitch Marner are signed until 2025.
If there has ever been a time to express optimism as a Leafs fan, it’s now. After the departure of Mike Babcock, the team has seen an extreme uplift pushing them into a playoff position, and it doesn’t seem like they’re slowing down.
Toronto Maple Leafs in the Next Decade
When it comes to previous decades, it’s not fair to compare any decade prior to 1970, because the Toronto Maple Leafs won five Stanley Cups in the 1940s, and four in the 60s during the ‘Original Six Era’.
Looking past 1970, the Leafs playoff appearances during each decade were the following: 1970s (nine times), 1980s (six times), 1990s (six times), 2000s (four times), 2010s (four times).
As you can see, the Leafs slowly get worse each decade, as more teams enter the NHL. It makes sense that the team gets less likely to make the playoffs as more competition arrives, but it’s still sad that the team hasn’t seen the second round of the playoffs since 2004.
Although a first-round playoff exit has been routine the last three seasons, the future is bright and has promises of the 90s. The Toronto Maple Leafs made back-to-back Conference Finals appearances in 1993 and 1994, then again in 1999.
Spearheaded by Doug Gimour in the early 90s, and Mats Sundin in the later half of the decade, Auston Matthews could write a similar story to those players. If there’s one player on the Leafs roster who can take over a game and propel his team forward, it’s Matthews.
Barring any injuries, Matthews is on-pace for 52 goals and 40 assists, which would be his personal best. Even at that pace, there’s still another level to his game, as he’s not even close to his prime yet.
Over the last decade, Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar are all centres that have led their teams to a Stanley Cup. Matthews is a prime candidate to join that list soon.
Matthews alone makes the Leafs worthy of being a playoff team every year, but the combination of Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Morgan Rielly and Frederik Andersen are all reasons why the team is bound to have its best decade ever.
Not only does the team have proven all-stars up front, but the potential emergence of Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren could make the Leafs defense one of the best in the league.
With Kyle Dubas’ belief in development with the Toronto Marlies, the farm system will always be stacked and as one of the best places to play in the NHL, the team will always attract free agents.
That recipe along with the elite youth that Toronto has will make them a contender for the next decade, and maybe even longer.