The last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup was when the Montreal Canadiens last hoisted the trophy in 1993. Given that Canada is the home of hockey, the fact that 30 years have gone by without a championship is amazingly hard to believe. Every season, there are Canadian teams vying for the trophy; and, this season is no exception.
The Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves once again among the top Canadian-based contenders, sharing the spotlight with the Edmonton Oilers. I think – as I have for the past four seasons or so – that this season could be the one.
In the post below, I’ll offer three reasons why I believe the Maple Leafs could be on the brink of ending the championship drought. [You will note, by my own admission, that I’ve thought this before. Just trying to be honest here.]
Reason One: The Maple Leafs Have a Potent Forward Lineup
The Maple Leafs boast an offensive lineup that should be able to put up points. Although many fans believe the way money is spent on salaries for the top players is flawed, the team keeps getting to the postseason – again and again. One of these days …
Having a quartet of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares in your top six units consistently gives the team a chance. These players can score. And, although Matthews could not match his 60 goals from 2021-22, he still had 40+. With the exception of Tavares, who at least is holding his own at a point-a-game pace, they are all getting better. The chemistry and ability of the team’s elite players is formidable.
In short, the Maple Leafs can score. That high-scoring threat makes the team capable of outshooting any competitor.
Reason Two: The Maple Leafs Have Made Solid Additions
The acquisition of Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi will provide secondary scoring, perhaps even downward into the third line. Bertuzzi looks to be a solid addition to the first line. It could be that Domi plays with Nylander and Tavares on line two, or he could move to the third line with the likes of Calle Jarnkrok and David Kampf.
In addition, the emergence of Matthew Knies should provide added forward depth. He didn’t look out of place when he joined the team in the playoffs. He seemed to be in the middle of a lot of scoring for his team. All three of these players could enhance the team’s offensive firepower. Bertuzzi’s and Domi’s experience and Knies’ potential inject new skill sets into the team’s attack. If anything, now opponents will have to figure out how to stop an even broader offensive assault.
Reason Three: The Maple Leafs Have Talent in the Crease
Surprising, I’m guessing that one area of the Maple Leafs’ strength will be their goalies. For my money, I believe this is the best set of goalies the team’s had since I’ve been covering the team over the past six seasons. I think both Ilya Samsonov and Josephy Woll have great promise.
Samsonov showed his reliability and steadiness last season, especially on home ice. As his backup, Woll has had a small sample size in the net. However, two things impress me: first, his record is great; and, second, he’s getting stronger every season. In addition, the Maple Leafs recently signed Martin Jones – just in case.
No one really knows how things will work out; however, the team’s goaltending corps shows grea potential for growth and consistent performance.
Could This Be the Season a Canadian Team Wins the Cup?
As Canadians eagerly await the regular season to begin, Maple Leafs’ fans are hesitant to really commit to believing their team has a chance to go far into the postseason. They’ve been down this road too many times before and have been disappointed.
Yet, the team’s chances of ending their almost 60-year championship drought could be within their reach. They once again have an impressive offensive lineup, with additional strategic acquisitions, and an emerging twosome of goalies.
Could this be the year the team becomes a true contender for the long-awaited Stanley Cup.
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