Skipping the Olympics is devastating for NHL players and hockey fans everywhere, but it could hurt the Toronto Maple Leafs in more ways than one.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a tremendous start, which meant many of their players were going to get selected to their respective Olympic roster. Having the opportunity to represent your country in the biggest and best competition in the world is an amazing honor, and that opportunity could have really helped this team.
Prior to the players skipping the Olympics, there was plenty of debate around this topic. Many fans (and owners, probably) didn’t want their players to represent their country, because of the risk of injury and extra hockey being played.
Back in the 2014 Olympics, John Tavares suffered a terrible knee injury during the tournament that forced him to miss the rest of the season with the New York Islanders. After having such a great start, no Leafs fan wanted to see something like that happen again to one of their star players.
Although injury is a real risk of any foreign competition, there was going to be a huge positive towards a few Toronto Maple Leafs representing their country.
Olympic Pressure Could Have Helped Toronto Maple Leafs Roster
It feels like this roster has been around forever, but the Toronto Maple Leafs core is still fairly young. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are only 24-years-old, while William Nylander is 25-years-old. Tavares is the wise old-man at 30-years-old, but throughout all of their hockey journeys, they haven’t faced a ton of true pressure as professionals.
All four of those players have played in International events and have excelled, but they’ve never played in a Gold Medal game at the Olympics for their respective country.
That Olympic pressure is a whole different kind of pressure and it really showcases who the best players in the world are in the big moments. It’s no coincidence that Sidney Crosby scored the “Golden Goal” in the 2010 Olympics to defeat Team USA, or that he scored again in the Gold Medal winning game in 2014 against Team Sweden.
Players of that caliber always deliver in the biggest moments and it would have been very valuable for the Leafs core-four to experience something like that.
It’s tough to predict but a Team Canada vs. Team USA Gold Medal game seemed like the most likely result, so Mitch Marner and John Tavares vs. Auston Matthews and potentially Jack Campbell would have been an amazing match-up.
Marner hasn’t scored a playoff goal in the last 18 games, so it would’ve been very valuable to see what he could do in a huge game like a Gold Medal game, while the same could be said about Matthews, who hasn’t been himself in some of the Leafs biggest playoff games.
If Campbell would’ve been named to the Olympic roster, playing at the Olympics could have been even more valuable to his mindset, to make sure that he knows he’s one of the best goalies in the world and can guide this Leafs team to a Stanley Cup.
However, now that the players aren’t able to play at the Olympics this year, all of those potential opportunities are lost. Those moments would have been so important to this Leafs roster, as they attempt to win a playoff round for the first time since 2004.