Toronto Maple Leafs: Remember the Five Year Rebuild

The Toronto Maple Leafs have once again disappointed you.

You think the Toronto Maple Leafs need to fire everyone, trade their stars and go in a different direction.

These are understandable feelings.

But before anyone says anything they can’t take back, or before they light something they paid $200 for on fire, let’s take a step back and get some perspective.

Perspective

The world of hockey is built on clichés.  Get pucks deep.  We have to start on time.  Etc.  There is one cliché that used to annoy me, but nobody seems to remember it anymore.

“The Five Year Rebuild”

The idea was, once upon a time, that it would take five years to tear down your team and rebuild it.  Now, maybe Chicago and Pittsburgh kind of ruined people’s tolerance for patience, but I think I need to remind you that the Leafs two best players – Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews – just finished the fifth year of their careers.

The Toronto Maple Leafs hired Brendan Shanahan in April 2014, and drafted William Nylander 8th overall in June of that same year.  But it wasn’t until April 2015 when the Leafs fired Dave Nonis (and shortly after, drafted Mitch Marner) when their rebuild clock started to run.

Five years from that day was last April, which means that the Leafs season was their first after the five year plan.  Essentially, what we just saw against Montreal was a team that blew their first chance in their competitive window.

So maybe, instead of tearing our hair out, calling for another rebuild and quitting on this team, let’s keep in mind that their best players are 24 years old.  They made the playoffs in their first five years.  Three of them are excusable losses. The fourth (in the play-in round) was a five game series after a six month lay off.  It was a total joke.

Now this year sucked.  Don’t get me wrong.  But some weird things happened (Tavares and Muzzin got injured. Matthews scored once on 35 shots. Marner had a zero percent shooting percentage).  And it is really the first year this team deserves to be judged as anything other than an up-and-coming team.

I think a team deserves more than one disappointing playoff loss before we start pointing fingers. Labeling Mitch Marner as a playoff failure and writing off his future because the team failed in their first year as a contender is ridiculous to the point of immaturity.

Now, I know that, deep down. the anger the fanbase is currently feeling has more to do with the pandemic and the other 54 years this team has failed to win anything, but we should all keep in mind that this is just the end of our team’s first year as a competitor and not just a team on the rise.

Mitch Marner still has plenty of time to grow into a battle-weary clutch performer.  Auston Matthews might even one day grow a proper mustache.  These guys are babies.

This is easily the best Leafs team we’ve ever seen.  They are on the verge of something special. They have one of the best roster in the league and one of the best farm systems.

Rasmus Sandin, Rodion Amirov, Nick Robertson, and Topi Niemela all project to be star players.  There is nothing to be upset about. The team is on the verge, and set backs are common for teams trying to build something special.

Besides the Five year Rebuild another cliché worth remembering is that you can’t win until you learn to lose.  People talked for years about how the Leafs had to go through a five-year rebuild.  They finally did it, so after five years of building, you can’t just bail the first year when things don’t go perfectly.