Toronto Maple Leafs: Focus Less on Winning and Enjoy the Ride

Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs got back on the win board after two bizarre losses where they weren’t just the best team, but completely dominated the opposition.

In Calgary, those who saw just the highlights confused a single open-ice hit with the Toronto Maple Leafs somehow getting “beaten up,” but in a town known for bad narratives, this was especially……silly.

Those of us who can count are still waiting for a plausible explanation about how a team can get “physically dominated” and yet have possession of the puck for 60% of the game, take 60% of the shots and get 60% of the scoring chances.

Just because the Calgary goalie was on fire doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of the Leafs best games of the season.

Then, in Vancouver, the same thing happened, only worse. Over the two games, both of which the Leafs (improbably) lost, they outshot their (very bad) opponents by a 2:1 margin, 101 to 50.

Last night, they played just as well – at least for as long as necessary – and came away with the win, but all this had the effect of making re-think how much I actually care about winning, which it turns out is not that much.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Seattle Kraken

The Leafs had a 4-1 lead and Seattle had just 8 shots.  It was a beat-down, but since the Kraken didn’t miraculously have a goalie having the best game of his life (for once) the Leafs were able to relax a little as time wound down, and thus the game’s final stats don’t really indicate how well the Leafs played, in what, by all rights, should have been their ninth straight win.

Had those games gone the way they should have, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be sitting in 2nd overall right now, by both actual points and points percentage.  As it is, they are a solid sixth, which is better than it sounds because the NHL has six teams who have won over 70% of their games, as opposed to the one or  two which would be normal.

The game was also noteworthy because Mitch Marner had three points, including a very nice assist, and hit the 400 mark for his career.  This is the third straight year that Marner has scored at a 100 point pace while providing elite defense.

At this point, only a cold streak in the last couple playoff rounds has prevented him from being widely considered the NHL’s third best player behind Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid (respectively).  It really makes you wonder why we put so much emphasis on some arbitrary games late in the season.  Seems kind of unnecessarily masochistic.

Win or Lose, Who Cares?

To be honest, it’s just such a blast getting to watch Matthews and Marner every night, I could care less how people rank them or what awards they win. After years of arguing with people about how underrated Jake Gardiner and Mikhail Grabovski were, it’s just a breath of fresh air to have two of the indisputably best players alive on the Leafs.  (

Personally, I think too much gets put on the random spring tournament.  Even if the Leafs ultimately lose a hard-fought first round series to one of the other best teams in the league, I don’t care – this is a special year, and it’s special to watch this team.  The all-or-nothing nature of sports is detrimental to their enjoyment, and is, I am now convinced, the exact wrong way to try and enjoy them.

It turns out that I do care about the regular season. I am going to enjoy the journey. Whether or not the team ends up avoiding the kind of bad luck they’ve faced over the last few playoff seasons is irrelevant.  I have enjoyed watching this team get drafted and built, and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow.

The payoff isn’t winning the Stanley Cup (although that would be great) the payoff is getting to tune in every night and enjoy the rare pleasure of watching two future legends lead one of the best teams ever assembled in the Cap Era.

I’ve waited my whole life for this version of the Toronto Maple Leafs and I’m not going to let a little thing like getting powerfully unlucky in the playoffs, or the near certain possibility of a ridiculous first round matchup get in my way.  This is my team, I enjoy them immensely – partially because of how they’ve responded to adversity, and partially for management sticking to what they knew was right when everyone else said it was wrong, but mostly just because they’re fun to watch.

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Win or lose, I will continue to do so. And if they lose again, I’ll be proud to know they did it the right way.  This is the best version of the Toronto Maple Leafs we’ve seen in the post-Expansion Era, let alone the Salary Cap Era.  I strongly urge everyone reading this to stop complaining about every minor thing and enjoy the show.