#3. The Core Four
The reason the Toronto Maple Leafs are such a good team is that they understand that star players drive success in the NHL and subsequently invested in four of them.
No other team in hockey has four forwards playing at this level, and it allows their role players – Kerfoot, Engvall, Bunting et. al – to shine.
The Core Four gives Sheldon Keefe an unreal amount of options and makes it very hard to play against the Leafs.
There just isn’t another player in the NHL as good as John Tavares that opposition teams ignore, and that makes the Leafs really hard to play.
The Core Four is going to be the main reason the Toronto Maple Leafs ultimately win the Stanley Cup. The fact that the Leafs were able to withstand the pressure of doing something no one had ever done before, and which almost no one publicly supported, is a testament to their belief in following what the numbers say, even when it clashes with traditional thinking.
Putting half the salary cap into four players was a risk, but it’s clearly working out. We know that winning in the NHL playoffs has a large component of luck to it, but there is no luck that can make you a Cup Contending .670 team over three seasons and almost 200 games.
Kyle Dubas has been proven right, but it’s going to take an actual Stanley Cup for most people to admit it, and there is a pretty good chance the Leafs win it this year.