The Toronto Maple Leafs are unlikely to part ways with newly appointed GM Brad Treliving, but failing to make the playoffs could trigger immediate changes.
As a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I've endured my fair share of pain and suffering, but the past decade has largely been blissful.
Although the team has had its moments of underperformance, there were years of hope and excitement.
The organization finally hit the mark by drafting and developing legitimate superstars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, and also secured one of the biggest free agents in NHL history with the acquisition of John Tavares. The core-four has lived up to expectations, and despite falling short in the playoffs, the blame doesn't entirely lie with them.
Hopefully the Leafs Miss the Playoffs This Year
While they could have performed better in certain Game 6s and 7s, they've often run into exceptional goaltender play and faced opponents with stronger defensive units. Reflecting on this season and the state of the franchise, I don't wish for them to win anymore. I don't want them to sneak into the playoffs or secure home-ice advantage in the First Round. Instead, I believe it's time for a necessary overhaul.
Why would a die-hard Leafs fan think this way? Well, the organization needs a retool. Not a complete overhaul, but falling short of the playoff goal they've set for seven consecutive seasons is essential. The team, as it stands, is not a strong contender. Making the playoffs and exiting in the First Round might lead to a repetitive cycle. Over the past seven years, despite knowing why they've lost, the Leafs have stuck to the same strategies and persisted with the same group, resulting in repeated defeats.
Their rationale has been that this core is good enough to win, backed by regular-season success, but often hampered by bad luck. While some of that is true, the group might not be strong enough to secure victory. Cap space has been misused, and they're likely to crumble in the First or Second Round once again this year.
Consequently, I hope to see them fall short and miss the playoffs, paving the way for significant changes. A playoff miss might signal the end of Brendan Shanahan's or Sheldon Keefe's tenure, which could be beneficial. It might also lead to trading elite players like Mitch Marner or John Tavares.
Marner and Tavares are exceptional players, Keefe is a skilled coach, and Shanahan has positively impacted the culture in Toronto. However, their time with the team might need to come to an end. In professional sports, when teams fall short, changes are typically made through firings or trades. Yet, inexplicably, the Leafs have stuck to the same approach year after year, resulting in the same outcomes.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently a below-average hockey team, and with a challenging test ahead, I hope they face a downturn that catalyzes real change.