In a disappointing turn of events for Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans, the team was eliminated from the postseason last night. They lost in overtime by a score of 3-2 to the Florida Panthers. Surprisingly, the team was simply unable to generate enough offence. That simple fact ultimately led to their downfall.
This outcome has significant implications for the organization. In fact, I cannot see that there won’t be changes – perhaps widespread and likely in key positions. In this post, I’ll speculate about three potential changes that might occur.
However, it is essential to note that the first point sets the context for all the changes that follow.
The Context: The Fanbase Is Simply Dissatisfied with Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe
For years, a large percentage of the Maple Leafs’ fanbase has expressed a desire to see General Manager Kyle Dubas leave. Perhaps not as many, but fans have also called for Head Coach Sheldon Keefe’s to be gone as well.
This general feeling is deep enough to matter. It also forms the backdrop against which potential changes in the organization will unfold. In fact, my own thoughts are that this sentiment is so deep that it would be ignoring the public not to listen to their desires.
Related: Why Two Hockey Critics Say the Maple Leafs Can’t Win Round 2
Potential Change #1: General Manager Kyle Dubas Is Likely Gone
Because the Maple Leafs failed to advance past Round 2 in the playoffs, there will be huge pressure on the organization to dump General Manager Kyle Dubas. He was expected to build a championship-calibre team; but, he did not.
There have been a series of postseason disappointments and those will likely push the organization toward changing leadership and with it philosophy. I believe Dubas made significant moves to bolster his team’s talent and went about his task the right way.
However, the lack of playoff success will likely prompt a change in the team’s direction. I cannot see Dubas remaining in Toronto.
Potential Change #2: Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Is Also Likely Gone
Now that the Maple Leafs fell short in the playoffs, Head Coach Sheldon Keefe’s position has become precarious. Although I’m less certain he’ll leave than Dubas, as a coach he’ll likely be one of the first scapegoats. An underperforming team often brings change; and, often the coach is one of the first to go.
At the least, Keefe will face scrutiny for his inability to guide the team to playoff success. From my perspective, there’s a bit of irony in all these movements. Critics will likely say that Keefe had a good team to coach, but couldn’t make success happen. The irony is that the same critics might also get on the general manager’s case for not building a good enough team.
I do believe that the organization will at least explore the possibility of bringing in new leadership for the team. I’m thinking both the general manager and the coach will be working elsewhere next season.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Woll, Marner, Hildeby & Voit
Potential Change #3: The Roster Will See “Adjustments”
An early playoff exit, coupled with the looming salary-cap situation, will likely lead to significant changes in the team’s roster. The biggest fan critique was that the Core Four was hogging too high a percentage of the organization’s salary cap. That likely means that someone – or two – of the team’s Core Four will be moved.
When assessing the performance of individual players and making decisions regarding trades, signings, or departures, the high-salaried contract status of the players must ben considered. Othere considerations include when their contracts expire and whether they have “no move” clauses.
If new leadership focuses on changes to the roster that are aimed at creating stronger depth scoring, likely the Core Four will be split up. I believe there’s a chance that even Auston Matthews could be moved. It really depends upon what he wants for the remainder of his career.
Obviously, I’m Speculating – But …
I am the first to admit that I don’t have a crystal ball. Nor do I have the depth of understanding to truly stay on top of the salary-cap implications. My suggestions for laying out these potential changes are speculative. Simply said, I do not know.
What I think I am smart enough to see is the writing on the wall. It’s been there a long time – postseason after postseason loss etched it in stone. Given the lack of success in the team’s history, I believe the organization will face tough decisions in the next few weeks. I can’t imagine that moves will not be made.
In the end, the sun will come up tomorrow. At the same time, I hope I’m still around for the 2023-24 regular season. I’m getting older.
As always, it should be exciting. Not much about the Maple Leafs and their fans can ever be called dull.
Related: Will It Be Time for the Maple Leafs to “Blow It Up Real Good?”
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May 13, 2023 at 3:53 am
I think that you mistake the highly vociferous for the majority of Leaf fans. No doubt, the majority of us are disappointed with the end of the season. That said, it was great to see them progress a bit further. The meme “anything but the Stanley Cup equals failure” is childish. The young analysts for the most part seem to think having a high IQ is all that’s required, seem to have low EQs or more likely, little real-life experience. For all of the problems with hockey, teams are not plug and play entities. This teams has matured over the years since the “Tank”. “Blow it up and start all over again” is for idiots and brats.
May 13, 2023 at 6:29 am
Thanks 2022-23 Leafs for a great season! Some excellent excitement in the playoffs, too! Way more than most teams got. Big changes now will set things back time-wise, so keep plugging away towards your Stanley Cup dream. Sorry for being a crank some nights. Hold your heads high!
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May 13, 2023 at 11:41 am
This is not at all a disappointment. Now the Leafs organization will finally do what is needed! The Leafs really didn’t do any better this playoffs than the past 6 years. They were seriously outplayed by the Lightning in 5 out of 6 games but got very lucky to win 3 overtimes. This last game with the Panthers, they lost the overtime. They were down 2-0 and crawled back just to get to overtime. 2 goals per game for several games doesn’t cut it. Lacking conviction, toughness and heart for the first 3 games with the Panthers before waking up. Does this all sound familiar?! The additions this year were better and more needed than the past but the Leafs simply cannot build a good enough team with so much wrapped up in the so called core 5. Now, it will get better!
May 13, 2023 at 12:00 pm
The changes need to start with a new president instead of Shanahan. He was green at NHL team management when he got that role and it has shown, no more than making a totally NHL inexperienced person the GM! The new president will get someone else besides Dubas and they will have lots of good experience as a NHL GM. Keefe seems like a good guy with potential who just became a NHL coach to early, he needed some years as an assistant NHL coach. The Leafs new GM will bring in a real NHL coach with good NHL playoff experience. However, I think it possible or even likely that Keefe will be kept on for the remainder of his contract, maybe even officially retaining his position in name. I think sometimes there are multiple head coaches behind a bench and, if so, maybe this happens.
May 13, 2023 at 12:12 pm
Matthews needs to go in order to get return before his NMC kicks in and because some of the so called core 5 must! He should be leading the team into battle in the playoffs but never has for 7 years so why renew his contract at any price?! Accairi and Schenn are keepers for the right contracts. Although Gio has been a great defenseman, he wasn’t too good in this playoffs. Maybe could play 20 regular season games next year if that’s what he wants, kind of like Spezza’s last year. O’Reilly for the right contract but will he?!
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