Who the Toronto Maple Leafs Want to See Hoist the 2020 Stanley Cup

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - SEPTEMBER 11: The New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning warm-up prior to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 11, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, ALBERTA - SEPTEMBER 11: The New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning warm-up prior to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 11, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

As the remaining teams compete for the top prize, one stands out as who the Toronto Maple Leafs would prefer to see hoist this year’s Stanley Cup.

The ultimate goal of any franchise is to be the one competing for, and ultimately winning, the Stanley Cup. Although the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t captured one since 1967, that’s not a streak they’re looking to continue.

After losing out on a playoff spot in this year’s postseason, the Maple Leafs simply did not achieve what they would have hoped to. Toronto may not have any vested interest in who wins, yet there is some reassurance in witnessing a team with a similar build take it if they can’t.

That may sound like nonsense, but let’s break that concept down a little further. The reality is that if your organization is no longer competing in the playoffs, or never were to begin with, then there will be a host of questions that circulate its makeup.

Clearly, many will be quick to point out what went wrong and what needs fixing. However, sometimes it’s not that straightforward. Perhaps the competing squad simply outperformed. It’s sports, it happens.

Moreover, it’s possible that the majority of the puzzle is already there. So, it’s not as though the whole thing needs to be scrapped and started over again. There are always ways to improve and progress to be made, even amidst championship rosters.

Toronto’s Out, Now What

In this case, with regards to the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s safe to say this past campaign was a failure. From a lackluster season to not even actually making it past the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and into the playoffs. It simply wasn’t good enough.

Yet, there is no debate that Toronto has several pieces that are clearly of a high enough calibre to help propel them into the next level of the franchise’s success. It just didn’t come together as was necessary this past year.

As the critics look to rip apart any semblance of symmetry that has been progressing over the years, the Toronto Maple Leafs are searching to make their case that what they’re doing is already working.

How can they do that, if they’re no longer involved? Quite simply, they can see if there is a comparison to be made between the teams that still do remain and what they are made of. In doing so, their outlook doesn’t seem so bleak after all.

The Missing Components

It’s natural to immediately circle what went wrong when facing failure. It aligns with the reaction and emotion that follows. What’s rarely focused on is what has gone right, along the way.

Certainly, there are factors of the Toronto Maple Leafs current design that could use some tweaking. That goes without saying, since they couldn’t pull it all together to get the job done. However, it’s not as though no parts are performing their function.

Could this team use some added strength to increase their physical presence? Of course. Are there question marks around their defensive stability? Absolutely. Does it mean that what they’ve created needs to be thrown out altogether? It does not.

It is possible to make a more objective observation, in hopes that it helps calm the current hysteria amongst Leafs Nation. Onlookers simply need to be willing to move past the emotional letdown and look forward to the potential of what’s next.

The Same Plan is Paying Off

Fans don’t need to do too much digging to find fairly common comparison points that have often been used when breaking down Toronto’s build. Finding another team that’s focused on skill, with obvious speed, and prioritizing scoring, isn’t difficult to locate amongst those that remain.

There is one roster that most resembles the Maple Leafs’ lineup. It’s hard to not see the comparisons in style of play that arise when watching the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa is a team that has turned into perennial contenders, yet it’s not as though that’s always been their case. It took them filling up their locker room will a skill-first mentality, which is finally paying off. Sound familiar?

What’s more, is that looking at their respective results this year alone, it would seem that these teams are already more closely associated than most non-fans allow themselves to believe. Bigger picture success matters most, of course, but it all starts with smaller snowballs.

Compelling Comparisons

Steven Stamkos was scouted as an elite sniper who was sure to address any goal scoring needs for the team that would be lucky enough to draft him. Tampa Bay selected Stamkos first overall in 2008 and was back in the playoffs by 2010-11.

Auston Matthews attracted similar pre-draft reports before he was picked by the Maple Leafs in 2016’s top spot. However, Matthews scored 40 goals in that rookie year. Stamkos earned 23 in his. Toronto also earned a playoff spot in Matthews’ first season.

Since Stamkos joined their organization, the Lightning has made it into the postseason 50% of the time. There is no denying how dangerous they’ve become, but it’s interesting to recognize that they’ve just recently taken on that reputation.

Toronto has now participated in the playoffs 75% of the time, with Matthews a member of the organization. It would have been 100%, had they moved on from their qualifying round this past attempt.

Of course, a team’s overall success isn’t going to hinge on one player alone. However, this quick comparison does a lot to illustrate the bigger picture for both clubs given that these are franchise athletes that came aboard with hopes of turning things around.

These superstars also showcase the overall theme of what their respective rosters represent in a nutshell. The types of players they are, act as an overview for the peak of what to expect from the play of their teams.

There is no denying how Stamkos has helped the Lighting progress over time, whereas Matthews has already proven to be even more impactful in a shorter duration. Interesting to note that Stamkos hasn’t yet won his first Stanley Cup.

As Tampa Bay pushes forward, this could very well be their time to take it all. Frankly, every year now seems that way. Soon enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs will mold into that pattern, too. It’s still early for this generation of the franchise, and fans need to understand that.

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Is it fair to say that Toronto deserves the same respect as Tampa Bay at this moment? Of course not, the Lightning have done more to earn theirs. The illustration being made is that the Maple Leafs have time on their side to turn into what Tampa has now become.