Toronto Maple Leafs Should Learn From Montreal Canadiens

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /

As a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs this is hard to say, but congratulations to the Montreal Canadiens for advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.

If you would have told hockey fans on May 25th that the Montreal Canadiens were heading to the Stanley Cup Finals, they would have laughed in your face. After being down 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round, their season looked over.

The Leafs were the favorite to win the series and were doing exactly as advertised. They lost Game One, but that was blamed on the unfortunate incident that happened to John Tavares. After that terrible injury, the team regrouped and it felt like that actually brought them closer together as a group.

The #DoItForJohnny campaign was in full-swing and everyone in Toronto thought that this could be the year that they finally make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

And then, the Leafs did the inevitable. They lost three consecutive games and ruined their best opportunity in years.

In the moment, it felt like the biggest collapse in team history. However, as we reflect, maybe they lost to the better team? As much as we don’t want to say that out-loud, Montreal deserves to be in the Stanley Cup Finals and here’s why.

Leafs Should Learn From Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are a team built around goaltending and defense. Instead of spending upwards to $40M on four skillful forwards, the team spent around $35M on their top-four defenseman and top-two goaltenders.

Although that formula didn’t translate into a ton of wins during the regular season, it’s been a brilliant strategy for the playoffs, where the games get tighter and it’s harder to score.

One of the reasons why their regular season didn’t match their playoff record was because of their goaltending. Carey Price was a shell of himself this year and has been mediocre at best for the past few regular seasons.

When we think of Price, we think of him as the former Hart/Vezina Trophy winner, but during the regular season, we haven’t seen him perform like that in years.

Although that’s the case, when the playoffs start, he’s transformed back into the best goalie in the world. Every time the Canadiens make the playoffs, Price always performs his best. Even if Montreal loses a playoff series, he’s never the one to blame and you can always count on him. With a $10.5M cap-hit, that’s extremely important.

As for the Leafs, their best players (and most expensive) went cold during the playoffs and have continued to do so for the past five years.

From watching the Canadiens, Toronto should potentially rethink their philosophy of what wins. Obviously skill wins, but maybe their skill is in the wrong position. Maybe they should invest their dollars in another big-name defenseman and quality goalie, instead of someone like Mitch Marner, who hasn’t scored a playoff goal in 18 games.

Maybe the Leafs should find balance in their third and fourth lines and find players who want to win, instead of those who are cheap.

Toronto needs Nick Robertson to become Cole Caufield next season, if they have any chance to advance far in the playoffs. You need your young superstars on Entry Level Contracts to out-perform their contracts in those first three years so you can get the most out of your team. That’s one of the main reasons why Montreal is excelling right now.

As a Leafs fan, it definitely hurts knowing that your rival is now in the Stanley Cup Finals and that you’re the only team that took them to seven games. Something that the Vegas Golden Knights or Winnipeg Jets couldn’t even do.

However, the Leafs need to look at it as a positive. They need to study Montreal’s roster and steal some of their philosophies. Toronto’s defense needs to get bigger and harder to play against and they need to find more depth in their third and fourth line.

It’s time for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make a huge trade and ship out one of their $10M forwards. It may sound crazy in the moment, but it’ll better the team as a whole and will help them win in the long run.

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Kudos to the Montreal Canadiens for making the Stanley Cup Finals, but on behalf of every Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I hope they get swept in the Finals.