Whether it is as simple as who is the other second line winger, or as complex as a coach’s mind games tactics to get the best out of his young star player, the Toronto Maple Leafs are never far from controversy.
Sometimes it’s a Zamboni driver who steals the show, or a Swedish winger who any team would crave to have getting torn apart in the local media. Other times the Toronto Maple Leafs captain can be singled out for getting the majority of his points on the powerplay and not as 5-on-5 so that means he isn’t contributing enough.
If it isn’t one of the star players, it’s the depth players who aren’t playing to their contract no matter how small, or it’s the ability blow a lead despite the odds showing their chances of winning above 99%.
The point being, in this market, the Toronto Maple Leafs are analyzed, scrutinized, adored and obliterated at every opportunity. It’s not necessarily a criticism it’s just the nature of the city, the history of the team and its lack of recent playoff success.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Market
Even after a Stanley Cup win, the Toronto Maple Leafs play will still be dissected and investigated but it is worth the reminder to the Leafs fans and pundits alike that at a certain point there is a time to stop and smell the roses.
In the last 10 days the Toronto Maple Leafs have dominated the Montreal Canadiens and been caught out by them, blown a now infamous 5-1 lead over the Ottawa Senators and rebounded with a suffocating 2-1 shutdown win before exploding for 7 goals in front of their back-up goalie.
Those game have been boring, crazy, excruciating and fun to watch and that is how it should be, it’s entertainment after all. That is how the Toronto Maple Leafs are set up to be. They have arguably the best shooter in NHL history in Auston Matthews on their team and the nearly always Mr Steady John Tavares down the middle. In Joe Thornton and Mitch Marner, the Leafs have one of the greatest passers of all time, and one who could be. Yet at times that offence has disappeared, although it hasn’t been a fault of Messrs Marner or Matthews.
They have an elite defenceman in Morgan Reilly a fourth elite forward in William Nylander, and for now, an elite goaltender in Frederik Andersen. Beyond that the Toronto Maple Leafs have some of the best complimentary pieces in the league in the form of Zach Hyman, TJ Brodie, Travis Dermott, Wayne Simmonds and more. None set the world alight, but they perform at different levels perfectly helping out the players they need to.
What so many Leafs fans are missing right now is that this might be the first, and last time we see this team in its complete crazy, frustrating and wonderful form. So many times Toronto has disappointed the fans and given them reason for hope in just 18 games this season.
With the Expansion Draft looming as well as UFA status for almost half the team this may be the only year the Toronto Maple Leafs look like this.
Toronto’s attacking dominance has been on full display more often than not this campaign, centred on a few but with timeless depth scoring at crucial moments. When it hasn’t and the Leafs have won it’s been because of excellent goaltending or some gritty defensive work in the third period.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to add a Top-6 forward before the deadline it won’t drastically change the team’s makeup, and common sense says Kyle Dubas isn’t the one to string together a blockbuster move to overhaul the team either. Yet in such an uncertain NHL season, perhaps it is the year that the Leafs don’t need to be utterly dominant, they just need little sprinkles of what makes champions and, as every team who wins the Stanley Cup knows, a dose of puck luck too.
This version of the Toronto Maple Leafs is awesome. Enjoy it while you can.