4 Reasons for Early Optimism in the Toronto Maple Leafs Off-Season

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six
Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Six / Claus Andersen/GettyImages
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A Resolution to the Core Four Issue

Some people may not see this as an issue, but the much-vaunted Core Four experience in Toronto has been a failure.  There has been much consternation about allocating so much salary cap to the team’s top 4 forwards, but I don’t see it as a salary cap issue.

The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t had trouble affording complementary talent, although there’s a good argument to be made that they’ve had issues signing the right players.  No, the real problem is that the Core Four have failed to rise to the occasion in the playoffs every single year they’ve been together.

Some of them have individually had decent playoff series, but as a group, their regular season scoring exploits dry up like an Arizona puddle in the middle of summer.  Other teams score goals in the playoffs (see Edmonton, Florida), so why do the Leafs struggle every game to put more than 1 or 2 on the scoresheet?

There’s a growing likelihood we won’t have to ask that question any longer.  Statements from management indicate that the desire is there to break up the Core Four.  The most likely player to be moved is Mitch Marner, for a few reasons.  First, his contract expires after the coming season, and the Leafs may not want to offer the kind of pay increase he will demand.  Second, he has been designated as the “whipping boy” by disgruntled fans looking to vent their frustrations, due to Marner’s perceived lack of effort.

Finally, there are rumours emerging that Marner may be open to waiving his no-move contract clause for the right situation.  It would be understandable if he’s had enough of the criticism and pressure associated with being a Toronto Maple Leaf.

If those rumours have any truth to them, expect GM Brad Treliving to work ceaselessly to move Marner for either a real NHL goalie (Juuse Saros, anyone?), or perhaps a top-end defenseman and/or a more physical scorer upfront.

It’s almost impossible to really know who might be available in exchange for Marner, but there’s a good chance Treliving finds a trade partner and the Leafs lineup looks a lot different next season.  In the post-season, at least, there’s nowhere to go but up.