The Toronto Maple Leafs Are Awesome: What Is Everyone So Mad About?

Dec 20, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan watched the game Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan watched the game Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports / Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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Winning Isn't Everything

Yeah I know, we've all been trained to think Stanley Cup or bust. But the real fun in watching hockey comes from knowing how hard and random it is to win the Stanley Cup.

Even if you avoid injuries and tough matchups (like say playing in the Atlantic Division and having to play the eventual Cup Finalist pretty much every year in the first round) there are goalies.

Goalies are unpredictable and yet control the entire outcome of games, series and careers. As the Leafs know, any random Sergei Bobrovsky or Jonas Korpisalo can come at you with a spell of invincibility.

And though excuses are lame, they are also called "reasons" and sometimes you can't help it. Should the team have found a way to just win no matter what? Sure. I wish they did.

But the fact that the NHL is so random and has such high variance should allow us a little bit of leeway in the all-or-nothing approach.

Being a top team is nothing to sneer at. The Leafs were bad for so long, and I loved them so much, that I literally spent half of my life watching them without any real hope.

At least for the last eight years there was always a chance they would win the Cup. For the last eight years they have given us more good hockey than every single person under 50 in the entire fanbase has seen over their entire life.

That's not everything we want or expect, but it's not nothing. The journey has been fun, and winning will be all the sweeter for having struggled to achieve it.

Brendan Shanahan can't control the weather. He can't decide who gets injured or what team the Leafs will play in the opening round. He can't put them in an easier division or prevent just absolutely mathematically mind boggling things like losing 11 straight elimination games or Mitch Marner going 18 games without a goal in the playoffs.

By the standards of literrelly everyone else who has tried, Brendan Shanahan has done an exemplary job. Even without more playoff victories this has been the best period in franchise history, at least since the NHL expanded beyond six teams.

I sit here and read all day about how much Marner sucks and how the Leafs have to move on from one of the best players to ever wear the uniform and I'm shocked. Do we not remember the dark years? Haven't the Shanahan Years been kind of awesome?

Not perfect, no. But pretty freaking great. Annually competitive and gifted with the chance to watch Marner and Matthews every night.

I think it's been a great era. And not only can I not stand the negativity of people who complain that Marner sucks but won't give him the benefit of the doubt regarding playing on one ankle, and who don't factor in such things as having a starting goalie who was on waivers in January, but I don't respect it either.

When things don't work, you try again. When you fail, you get back up. You don't quit, whine about it and trade your best players in a fit of pique.

Leafs Nation, you have to stop being so thin-skinned. Yeah, you lost again. Deal with it. The Colorado Avalanche didn't win until year nine of Nathan MacKinnon. The Oilers are in year nine of Connor McDavid. The Capitals didn't win until Ovechkin had played 13 seasons.

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Stop blaming all your problems on Mitch Marner, stop being bad at math, and relax. This team is fun. It's a joy and a privilege to get to watch them. And if you don't agree, think back to that game at Christmas time against the Jets when Ron Wilson looked like he was going to explode.

I for one remain extremely optimistic about not only the Toronto Maple Leafs, but this exact version of them.