The 2023-24 campaign will make or break whether or not the Toronto Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup in our lifetime.
It’s hard to remember, but it wasn’t that long ago that the Toronto Maple Leafs were a terrible hockey with no chance of winning a Stanley Cup, let alone a playoff round.
The days of Vesa Toskala as the team’s starting goaltender and Tyler Bozak as the number-one centre seem like they never happened, as we’ve been blessed with a fantastic roster for the past seven years.
After seven years together, marriage is usually the next step, but this team still hasn’t even moved in together. They’ve been stuck living at home, scared to move in, hating the idea of the next step, which in hockey terms is a Stanley Cup championship, or at least a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The 2023-24 is a huge season for the Leafs. If we use that marriage analogy again, it’s either time to move in, or it’s time to break-up. Critics thought they should have broken up years ago, but this is the last straw.
Both Auston Matthews and William Nylander have not signed long-term, so in reality, this is the Leafs “Last Dance.”
After this season ends, if Nylander and Matthews don’t re-sign, the team will be stuck with only one more year of John Tavares and Mitch Marner and will also be without Tyler Bertuzzi, TJ Brodie, John Klingberg and Max Domi.
Make or Break Season for Toronto Maple Leafs
The salary cap is going to rise, but with that, comes a pay-raise for Marner, Matthews and Nylander. The only luxury the team would have is if Tavares takes a hometown discount to keep the core around, so his buddies can get paid, but we can’t expect that.
As such, this is the last true opportunity for this team to win and it’s not going to be easy.
They still haven’t upgraded their defense enough and don’t have a legitimate number-one goalie. They may be slightly better, on paper, then they were last season, but they haven’t addressed their cap-space issue.
This team can score and will continue to be one of the best offensive teams in the NHL, but can they keep the puck out of their own net?
Will Domi and Bertuzzi be the “snot” necessary to win that decisive Game 7 or will they fall flat like they do every year?
This may be the last season for a very long time that the Toronto Maple Leafs are relevant and we need to enjoy it. We need to embrace the fact that Matthews, Marner, Tavares and Nylander (for now) are playing for this organization, as the end could be near before we know it.