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Maple Leafs, You Have One Job!

The Toronto Maple Leafs look to finally end nearly two decades of doubt, as they enter the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

By Clyde E. DawkinsPublished about a year ago โ€ข 3 min read
Top Story - March 2023
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the playoffs for the seventh straight year

On Sunday, March 26, 2022, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Nashville Predators, 3-2, behind two goals from their captain, John Tavares. On the following day, the Leafs were off, but they could clinch a playoff spot during their idle day with a loss from the Florida Panthers. Even better, because the Leafs picked up two points, Florida's loss didn't have to be in regulation. In a crazy scenario, the Panthers were in Ontario, but against the province's other franchise, the Ottawa Senators. This meant that the Leafs and their fans had to (for that night) pull for their provincial enemies to pull out the victory. The Sens did just that, winning 5-2 over the struggling Panthers, and that gave the Leafs another playoff appearance.

Now, I'm going to get ahead of this before anyone gets any ideas and brings up the Leafs' history. We know what the goal is for the Leafs: the Stanley Cup. Since 1987, it has taken 16 wins in four rounds to win that very prestigious trophy. That's the goal for every team. However, in order to get those 16 wins, one has to win four first, obviously. Granted, the ultimate goal for the 16 teams who participate in the greatest tournament in pro sports is the Stanley Cup. The Leafs, however, just need to do something they haven't done in nearly two decades: win four games.

2004. That's the last time the Leafs won four games in a single postseason. Since the NHL returned from their season-killing lockout in 2005, the Leafs haven't won a single playoff series. We know the heartbreaking history. Seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins in 2013, a six-game loss to the Washington Capitals in a 2017 appearance that marked the beginning of a supposed uprising, only for back-to-back seven-game losses to the Bruins to occur. The 2020 bubble saw them lose a five-game Qualifying Round series (on their own ice) to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and then, there's 2021. Best season in 20 years, led 3-1 over the Montrรฉal Canadiens, only to lose the next three, and last year was the nail-biting seven-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Maple Leafs' highly expensive core: Marner, Tavares, Matthews, Nylander

Of course, this is the fifth season that the Leafs are lead by that core of players: Mitch Marner, William Nylander, the aforementioned John Tavares, and of course, Auston Matthews. Between October and April, each player has been worth the money that the Leafs are shelling out, and this year has been no exception. Let's start with Mitch Marner. $10.9 million cap hit, he'll be a UFA at the end of the 2024-25 season, and after ending his long suffering playoff goal scoring drought last year, he's been tearing it up. 28 goals, 66 assists, 94 points (leading the team in the last two categories). John Tavares, signed by the Leafs in the summer of 2018, will be getting $11M/year for two more seasons after this one (UFA at the end of 24-25). This year: 32 goals, 43 assists, 75 points, but is the only one in the core with a negative Plus/Minus (-3).

William Nylander is the least expensive member of that quartet, getting just under $7M/year and will get one more payday next season before he becomes a UFA. He shares the goals lead with Auston Matthews with 36, and that and his 45 assists give him 81 points this season. As for the aforementioned Auston Matthews, he's getting the biggest payday: $11.6M/year, with one more season of that amount before becoming a UFA. 36 goals, 41 assists, 77 points so far. They have been worth the money for six months out of the year, but it's after that point that matters.

Here's how I see this. Right now, the Leafs are building on that terrific shortened 2020-21 season that saw them win their first division title since 2000. Yes, that ended badly for them, but even so, the Leafs had a 100-point season on the following year, and we could see that again this year. It does look like that the Leafs will face the Lightning again in the first round, but the Lightning aren't as strong as they were in the last three years. They have problems this year. The way I see it, they have one small job: win four playoff games. I see the Leafs doing just that, and then some. A long run is coming for the Leafs this year, I just have that feeling.

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About the Creator

Clyde E. Dawkins

I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also into film and TV, especially Simpsons and Family Guy.

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Comments (15)

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred10 months ago

    Excellent article

  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago

    Terrific!!!๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’•

  • Kendall Defoe about a year ago

    Leafs suck.

  • Good article. Well written. And as a perennial fan of the Minnesota Vikings, I can certainly identify. One small editorial note: in your final paragraph there is a sentence that begins, "It does look like that the Leafs will face the Lightning...." I do believe that you have an extra "that" in that sentence there. Congrats on top story.

  • Peter Wabout a year ago

    Hey Clyde. On paper, everything you are saying is true. The Leafs have a ton of Superstars in their prime. But...it's the Leafs. They just don't know how to win playoff games. But I enjoyed the article nonetheless.

  • John Oliver Smithabout a year ago

    Hi Clyde - I am a HUGE Maple Leafs' fan, so I, of course, love your article. I am feeling and hoping and wishing that this will indeed be the year for the Leafs. I think the Leafs have everything they need to jump on the Lightning in the first round of playoffs. If Boston and Carolina could both choke out in the first round, the stage would be set for our Leafs. However, if they don't win, that's OK too. As much as it would be cool to win the Stanley Cup, I am really more interested in watching these guys play. So if they could actually stretch every series they play in playoffs to the limit, I could see them play an extra 28 more games this season - and if they lose the last one, so be it. If you want to understand a little more of what I mean, I wrote a piece entitled "Take Me Out to the (Regular Season) Ballgame". You can find it here on VOCAL. Thanks again for your Leaf support and your story. Take Care.

  • JBazabout a year ago

    You know what? I am going to actually ( partially) cheer for the Leafs. In the Playoffs I always go Canadian ( unless it is Colorado) Congratulations on Top Story.

  • Loryne Andaweyabout a year ago

    Whoohoo! Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Stephanie J. Bradberryabout a year ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Congrats on the TS

  • Babs Iversonabout a year ago

    Wonderful!!!๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’•

  • Rick Henry Christopher about a year ago

    Clyde as always you are a master at reporting these hockey events. Outstanding job!!!

  • Loryne Andaweyabout a year ago

    It will be very interesting to see how far they go this season. Hopefully, they play as you predict and then some ๐Ÿ™

  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    Great article, and I hope you're right.

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