Earlier this Fall, just prior to the regular-season start, ESPN Sports put out its version of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team. In fact, it put out the All-Decade Teams for all NHL franchises – in case anyone wishes to look. In this post, I want to look back over the last decade of the Maple Leafs and share the team ESPN Sports named.
The hockey analysts at ESPN put together All-Decade teams for all 31 NHL franchises. When they built these all-decade teams, they attempted to answer the following questions:
Question One: Which players had that combination of statistical achievement and historic importance?
Question Two: Which players defined the journey for teams from the 2009-10 season to the present?
Here are their choices for the Maple Leafs
Center: Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 111 goals, 94 assists, and averaging 0.97 points per game)
Left Wing: James van Riemsdyk (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 154 goals, 140 assists, and averaging 0.71 points per game)
Right Wing: Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 181 goals, 213 assists, and averaging 0.88 points per game)
Defense: Morgan Rielly (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 51 goals, 192 assists, and averaging 0.52 points per game)
Defense: Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs Career Statistics: 45 goals, 151 assists, and averaging 0.46 points per game)
Goalie: Frederik Andersen (Maple Leafs Record 107-53-26, .918 SV%, 2.75 GAA)
Head Coach: Mike Babcock (Record with the team is 164-123-41)
Are There Any Omissions?
Maple Leafs fans have to ask themselves if there are any omissions on this team. And, perhaps the most obvious and glaring omission was Mitch Marner. Although he’s played the same number of seasons as Matthews, he hasn’t yet made the all-decade team. Perhaps, with a season left in the 2019-20 decade, there’s still time; although his recent injury cannot help him as he seeks to establish his legacy with the team.
The ESPN staff noted that the Maple Leafs decade has been a “ride.” They were a promising team early in the decade with Ron Wilson and Brian Burke, but the team never lived up to the hype it generated. However, the decade started to look up when the team won the Matthews’ lottery and added veteran general manager Lou Lamoriello to help stabilize the franchise and mentor the young, and upcoming Kyle Dubas.
Finally, bringing John Tavares back home before the 2018-19 season helped solidify the team’s offense. Finally, the team has currently had to work to sign contracts with two talented, restricted free agents in William Nylander (last offseason) and Marner (this offseason). As the ESPN staff noted: “Let it never be said the Leafs had an unassuming 2010s.”
Will There Be Any Changes?
The recent firing of head coach Mike Babcock must also be considered here. Perhaps his replacement as coach Sheldon Keefe will extend and even build on Babcock’s legacy with the team. The team’s vision is now firmly in the hands of general manager Kyle Dubas and new coach Keefe. It shall be interesting to see how that plays out.
What 2019-20 Players Might Become Part of the Next All-Decade Team?
It’s interesting to ask when looking at the Maple Leafs’ current roster, which players might also make next decades list. Certainly, Auston Matthews out to remain on that list. But, given that John Tavares is also a center, what happens with two great centers?
There are also some players who might not yet have had a chance to show their stuff yet because of their relative youth. Specifically, defenseman Travis Dermott might be one. He has plenty of skill and ability.
Also, first-year Maple Leafs player Ilya Mikheyev might also become one of those players. I’m starting to believe he might be a very special player. And, it will be interesting how new coach Keefe deploys him.
It will also be interesting who will develop in ways we cannot yet even fathom. Certainly, players on the Toronto Marlies might be in that mix. Specifically, Rasmus Sandin might be right in the mix.
That’s, after all, the fun of being a hockey fan. One can never know how things will emerge.
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