Toronto Maple Leafs Successful By All but the Dumbest of Standards

MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 07: President Brendan Shanahan and assistant general manager Hayley Wickenheiser of the Toronto Maple Leafs talk prior to Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 07: President Brendan Shanahan and assistant general manager Hayley Wickenheiser of the Toronto Maple Leafs talk prior to Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs spent the vast majority of the time before hiring Brendan Shanahan as a complete and utter joke.

Despite being an Original Six Franchise with unlimited money, the Toronto Maple Leafs were an avatar of failure and bad decision making, poor thinking and stupidity.

Until they hired Brendan Shanahan, and things changed significantly.

The biggest change: No longer would the media run the team by proxy.

Shanahan talked about “process over results” and “taking the time to do things the right way”  he brought in Kyle Dubas an an army of intelligent young people like Brandon Pridham and Sheldon Keefe.

They created an atmosphere of trust with the players, and the Leafs have the reputation today as the NHL’s most player-friendly team.  Though fans lament the lack of playoff success, the Leafs are an organization that all players want to play for.

Look at what’s happened in Vancouver or Philly lately – you could never see those things going down here under Shanahan, who has made the Leafs into a classy organization where those types of controversies not only don’t happen, but are unimaginable.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Playoff Success Is a Ridiculous Measuring Stick

Before Shanahan, the Toronto Maple Leafs missed the playoffs for about 15 years in a row.  They changed coaches and GMs more frequently than some players change their lucky underwear.

Shanahan brought stability. He not only changed the culture, he created the best culture in pro sports.

And he brought consistency: The Leafs have made the Playoffs seven years in a row.

What happens once the NHL begins its’ Annual Variance and Goaltending Competition is out of his hands.  In fact, I think it’s embarrassing and silly that we care so much about arbitrary results.

The Leafs have entered the playoffs as legitimate contenders for at least the last three seasons in a row.  Not once have they performed badly and lost for any of the reasons people always disparage this team for.  They lost, but they gave a solid effort and comported themselves well. What more can you ask?

The Leafs once played a game where they came back from down 2 goals to force overtime, then outshot Montreal 12-0 before losing on an 80 foot knuckle-puck that beat the goalie, while a Leafs player (Alex Galchenyuk) laid on the ice 200 feet away due to an uncalled head-shot.

It’s true the lost this game, but the circumstances of how they lost that particular game really illisturtes how stupid viewing sports as a pass/fail exercise really is.  It seems unbelievable that people care more about the result that how it occurred.

If the Leafs had of won this game, as they would have 99 times out of 100, then no one would complain about where they are now.  Even if they then immediately bowed out in the second round.

They’d still have the same amount of championships that they have today, they’d just be perceived as a better team.  And that drives me nuts.  We should enjoy the fact that we’ve got to watch this amazing collection of players for almost an entire decade.  It’s been really fun so far, even though we don’t have anything to show for it.

If that completely arbitrary game had of gone their way, then like Tampa, Washington and Detroit before them, they could have had five or six years to grow as a team, and fail in relative obscurity while they worked their way towards eventual success.

They still might, but there are so many loud voices who just complain the most when they only get 99% of what they feel entitled to.

The whole thing is so stupid: we know the actual math that says how random the playoffs are. It’s not a mystery.  We know of game theory, and how it explicitly says hockey is a poorly designed game because of the one player who has an outsized influence on outcomes.

We know teams get goalied. We know the best team rarely wins it all.

But we don’t care.  The Leafs haven’t won anything so we’re supposed to be really upset. What we are is spoiled.

So, So Spoiled

You get to watch a team with Auston Mathews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander.  You get to watch it every night for like almost a whole decade.  And they do nothing but win. Since Keefe was hired, he has something like the best points-percentage of any coach ever.

That means for four seasons and about 250 games, we’ve got to see some of the best players on earth, every night, playing for us.  And they get it done consistently.

I don’t think we should put so much on the random results of an arbitrary tournament.  I for one, love this iteration of the Toronto Maple Leafs and I hope they do win, because it will be really fun if they do. But if they don’t, I’m still going to enjoy the entertainment they’ve provided and respect the sacrifices they made to make it happen.

I love this team. I love how they don’t quit. I love how if they do win, it won’t be cheap at all. I love how they’ve built a team and grown it through the years.  It’s all very romantic and exciting. The thing is, and maybe I’m alone on this, but I don’t need them to win to be satisfied.

Getting a great team, and actually filling it with some of the best players alive is good enough for me.  Hell, it’s superior to every single other Leafs team we’ve had the pleasure of watching.  The Gilmour years were fun, they didn’t get it done. The early 2000 Sandin year, same thing.

This is even more fun, and there is still a chance they win.

I for one don’t care if they don’t. I know that when they face Tampa in the Spring, there’s only a 55% chance they win in the best of scenarios.  Who cares? If they, as they always have, give it their all and do their best, that’s good enough for me.

I want the Toronto Maple Leafs to win. I just think it’s immature and dumb and silly and pathetic to make sports into an all or nothing, either/or proposition.   We have been blessed to get to watch this team for the last seven years, and I hope they re-sign everyone and give us seven more.

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If they win, they win. If they don’t, they don’t.  Are you not entertained?  I’m sick of people complaining about the playoffs. Boo hoo.  You win or you don’t, what the Leafs have done in the regular season over the last four years, is actually way harder and way less random and much more impressive than just winning a series or two.

Look, I’m not saying I don’t want to win the cup, I’m just saying I don’t dig the spoiled child act that goes along with sports these days.