The Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent season brought a mix of success and disappointment. Currently, the team finds itself in a state of what some call dysfunction. There’s a lot of uncertainty about the team’s future. However, that promises to be over quickly.
It has to be. Changes have to be enacted well before July 1. That’s the date that three key players – Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner – all have no-move clauses that kick in.
In this blog post, I will take a look at the team’s performance through three windows. The First window is the “Ups.” What are two areas did the team show that were positive? The second window is “Downs.” What two areas of the team’s play were in need of improvement? The third area is what I call “Outs.” That is, what significant team personnel have or will the team lose?
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Penguins, Dubas & Shanahan
Up One: The Maple Leafs Made Significant Improvements
Although the team was unable to advance to Round 3 of the postseason, it did experience success by clinching a series win against the formidable Tampa Bay Lightning. For the first time in 19 seasons the Maple Leafs advanced to the second round. This achievement demonstrated the team’s potential and showcased its ability to rise to the occasion. It was a notable step forward after years of playoff struggles.
Up Two: Perhaps Good Changes Are Coming
To become a Stanley Cup contender, the Maple Leafs must bridge the gap between regular-season success and playoff achievements. With a change in the team’s leadership, a new vision, philosophy, and culture will be needed to inject fresh energy and a winning mindset into the team. Are they coming? While change can be unsettling, it also presents an opportunity for growth and renewed hope among fans.
Related: Four Reasons Auston Matthews Will Stay with the Maple Leafs
Down One: Round 2 Was a Huge Letdown
Despite the Round 1 victory, the team’s disappointment in the second round was palpable. It even seemed more amplified by the initial success of Round 1. After the Round 2 loss, the mood of the fanbase drastically shifted, raising questions about the team’s mental fortitude and resilience. The Round 2 loss might have been instrumental in costing Kyle Dubas his job as the general manager. The Maple Leafs must emerge from this turmoil and address their shortcomings to elevate their performance in crucial playoff moments.
Down Two: Coaching and Player Accountability
Head coach Sheldon Keefe faced growing criticism for his struggles to find consistent line combinations and guide the team through challenging stretches. The Round 2 loss was in part blamed on his being outcoached. Although the players must share responsibility for their non-productive performances during crucial playoff moments, the finger is pointing at Keefe. Matthews and Marner, in particular, were inconsistent and failed to sustain momentum.
Related: Former Maple Leafs GM Shares Regrets About Leaving the Team
Out One: The Release of Dubas As General Manager
Perhaps the firing of general manager Kyle Dubas marks a step towards addressing the team’s shortcomings. Opinions on Dubas’ tenure are divided. There are both positive and negative feelings about his leadership. The evaluation of his role, the contracts he signed players to, and the core players’ performance remain topics of debate among fans and hockey critics.
Out Two: Building a Team for the Future
Critical decisions loom regarding player contracts. In fact, there will definately be changes to the roster. While the rumors are that the team wants to extend Matthews by signing a new contract, the future of Mitch Marner remains uncertain. Many believe he’s likely the player to go if one of the Core Four is traded. The team also looks to trade goalie Matt Murray. As well, a number of players will not be back on the roster. The players most likely to move are defenseman Justin Holl and forward Alex Kerfoot.
The Bottom Line
The Maple Leafs’ season was a mix of success, disappointment, and even chaos and (perhaps) some dysfunction. Assessing the team’s shortcomings and addressing them strategically will be crucial for the franchise’s future success.
Fans should expect roster changes, a culture shift, and the attempt to instill a winning mindset for the postseason. The work will focus on transforming the Maple Leafs into a true contender for the Stanley Cup.
As fans, we should look forward to the possibility of huge changes. The question is whether, after so many seasons of regular-season success, will the changes move the team closer to its goal of winning Lord Stanley’s Cup?
There remains hope for a brighter future.
Related: WILL EX-LEAFS KYLE DUBAS & JASON SPEZZA LAND WITH THE SENATORS?
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May 22, 2023 at 10:50 pm
NMC = no move clause. The player cannot be moved anywhere else and is only with that team in the NHL. NTC = no trade clause. Self-evident meaning and most are 10 team list they can’t and won’t be traded to. Nylander has a NTC 10 team clause as of July 1, the other 2 are NMC. So, Nylander doesn’t matter very much, the concerns are Matthews and Marner. If they get to July 1 without being traded, they hold all the cards in order to walk away without the Leafs getting anything in return or being forced to pay way too much, like they did with UFA Tavares. Also, it means the Leafs will continue to be stuck with the same situation of too much of the cap in the “core” for the remainder of their contracts. BTW, do you think maybe Dubas wanted out before he had to handle this situation?! Apparently, no one else has asked that question that seems so legitimate 😉
May 22, 2023 at 11:03 pm
The Leafs were substantially outplayed in 5 of their 6 games in round 1 but they lucked out in winning 3 overtimes. This should be viewed as yet another failure. The second round, they were pathetic in the first 3 games. Failed again. It wasn’t Keefe who caused the “core” 4 to be absent in round 2 with the team only scoring 2 goals a game for 7 straight games! It was a replay of what we’ve seen from them for all the playoff years of Dubas.
May 23, 2023 at 4:36 am
Bottom line: which player would you rather have in the playoffs, Mitch Marner or Sam Bennett? Oh, it also happens that Bennett makes about 6.5 million a year less than Marner. How about trading Marner and replacing him with two Sam Bennett-type players? Want to win a Stanley Cup Leaf fans? Then you have to make hard choices.
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