Toronto Maple Leafs Elite Talent Is Hurting Stanley Cup Chances

Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Five
Florida Panthers v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Five / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

Auston Matthews historic season may be a crutch for the Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup pursuit this season.

Since the NHL Lockout, only four players have scored 40-plus goals, and just two have scored 100-plus points on a Stanley Cup-winning team. At the current rate, the Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to have two 40-plus goal scorers and potentially three 100-plus point scorers on their team.

While history books show multiple examples of 40-plus goal scorers and 100-plus point scorers winning Stanley Cups over the last 100 years, the last 18 years are particularly significant. After the NHL lockout in the 2004-05 season, the league transitioned to a hard salary cap, emphasizing team balance over individual superstars. This shift explains why most teams aren’t successful solely relying on elite talent.

While players like Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, and Nathan MacKinnon have won Stanley Cups, they were part of teams where success was a result of collective effort, not just individual brilliance.

Since 2005, the highest goal/point scorer on the Stanley Cup-winning team has averaged 31 goals and 75 points in a season. Notably, Alex Ovechkin's 49-goal year in 2017-18 and Evgeni Malkin's 113-point campaign in 2008-09 were standout performances among them.

Toronto Maple Leafs Must Blow Up Core-Four

While it's possible to win a Stanley Cup with an Art Ross Trophy or Hart Trophy winner on the roster, it's rare. Winning a championship requires a team effort, a statistic that the Leafs seem to overlook.

If the Leafs were to trade John Tavares and Mitch Marner tomorrow, and Matthews had to play alongside players like Matthew Knies and Calle Jankrok, he might not score 60-plus goals and 100-plus points. However, he's one of the best talents in the world and would be able to produce at a high level, perhaps between 35-45 goals and 75-90 points.

Matthews scored 40 goals and registered 69 points in his rookie season while playing alongside young players like Connor Brown and Zach Hyman every night. It's reasonable to assume he could carry another line, prompting the question of why the team isn't considering this approach.

Is it because they're afraid of losing jersey sales? With $45M allotted to four players in 2024-25, winning becomes even more challenging, necessitating a change in strategy.

That said, the Leafs have been contenders every year that they have used this strategy, and it must be noted that they had $20 million to spend last summer and did not spend it wisely. This doesn't necessarily exonerate the Leafs for spending so heavily on five players however, because it means the margin for error is razor thin.

While having $25M in cap space dedicated to William Nylander and Matthews until 2028 is acceptable, another $22M towards Marner and Tavares may not be sustainable. History suggests that such an approach won't work. It might be more beneficial to have five $4M players who can contribute between 15-20 goals and 40-50 points each, rather than two players who combine for 65-70 goals and 160-180 points respectively.


If this were the first few years of the core-four, patience might be warranted. However, after six years, there's little evidence to suggest that the current strategy is effective. While it may seem drastic, I'm almost hoping for a first-round sweep to prompt significant changes this offseason, rather than wasting more of Auston Matthews' prime years.