3 Straight 1st Round Exits Distort the Toronto Maple Leafs Success

The Toronto Maple Leafs season has been placed on hold.

Whether or not the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the rest of the NHL resume this season is anyone’s guess at this point.

Were the league still going, the Leafs would be playing the Capitals tonight to close out the month of March. It was to be their 80th game, with the season wrapping up Saturday night against the Canadiens.

Under normal circumstances, the playoffs would begin next week.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Lightning

The Leafs most likely playoff partner was the Lightning, and I think most people would have the Leafs as pretty big underdogs going into the season.

While I think the Leafs match-up nicely against the Lightning, one concern I’d have is that Tampa lost last year in the first round, so you know they’re going to treat this year’s first series as if they’re already in the Finals.

I think too much has been made of the Leafs losing three times in the first round over the last three years.

The first time, the Toronto Maple Leafs had no business even making the Playoffs – they just overachieved.  It’s ironic that had they actually missed the playoffs during the first two years of their rebuild, like virtually all teams do,  that people would view them better today.

Since we were spoiled with early success, I think we set expectations too high.  But who can be blamed for that?  They’re an exciting team.  With a little luck, they could already have their Cup.

Even in the second year (the first against Boston) they over-achieved in the regular season.  They then pushed a Cup winning legacy team with the NHL’s best roster (or close enough) to game seven.

Again, losing sucks, but context is important.  This was Auston Matthews sophomore year.  They didn’t yet have John Tavares.

Year three, was even better.  They played Boston to game seven again, and lost again.  But this time, they outplayed their rivals and got unlucky.

Eight power-play goals in seven games for the Bruins, with Babcock playing Marleau like it was 2002, and Kadri (unbelievably) suspended again.  And it still went seven games.

When a team loses three straight times in the first round it definitely appears like they’re treading water.  I believe, however, that if you dig a little deeper and look at the context of each series, you can see the Leafs improving each year.

Results are tricky.  If you get lucky in year one, and unlucky in year two, the progress is hidden.

Next: Why You Should Believe the Leafs Are an Elite Team

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a lot better than they were four years ago.  They have the NHL’s best roster, and I believe, if healthy, the NHL’s best team.

Hopefully the playoffs happen this year so they can prove it.

Load Comments