Story by Charlie Crowley
The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the oldest franchises in the National Hockey League, is a team that has seen both sides of the spectrum. They have won Stanley Cups while also being on the outside looking in; the problem is they haven’t won a Cup since 1967 or a playoff series since the 2003-04 season (see: Boston – Toronto Game 7). The Leafs have been something of a laughingstock in recent years, much to the displeasure of their hardcore fanbase. Playing in Toronto is the equivalent of being a quarterback in Philadelphia: every move you make is under a microscope and subject to criticism, and some random know-it-all on the commute to work will call into his local radio station to say you should get traded.
How does the Leaf brass solve this problem? Let’s start with the draft. The Maple Leafs are putting their money in forward Mitch Marner, who finished an impressive season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League with 126 points in just 63 games. Although his skill is evident, Marner tips the scales at just 164 pounds, and still has room to grow. He may crack Toronto’s lineup out of camp, but don’t be surprised if he is sent back down to London. In addition to Marner, the Leafs also have promising young talent in William Nylander, who had 32 points in 37 games with the Toronto Marlies in his first year playing North American hockey. Both young men will have all eyes on them in the coming years.
The Leafs have taken other steps to find a solution to their playoff problem. Free agency came about on July 1, and Toronto made possibly the biggest trade of the day, trading leading scorer Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, and Tim Erixon to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, Scott Harrington, and a second round pick in the 2016 draft. A prolific scorer with surprising speed for his build (his nickname on occasion is ‘Cheeseburger Phil’) Kessel had been seen as a distraction with the way he treated coaches. Although some of that may be blown out of proportion by the media, the Leafs want their club heading in a different direction.
Will the Maple Leafs finally get over the last hump in their climb and end the 48 year Cup drought? This year may not be the year, but they are gearing up with the right tools to get into the playoffs and turn a few heads. Goaltending will be an X-factor, as it is with any playoff caliber team, but a hot goaltender at the right time can be a key to success. This could be the year the Toronto Maple Leafs (finally, maybe, possibly, if everything works out right for once) make their run for Lord Stanley’s Cup again.
About the Writer…
Charlie Crowley is a soon to be junior studying communication and journalism. He spends most of his time playing hockey, sleeping, eating, and on Reddit. He’s also a Hoosier, and proud of it, but can’t hit the open three to save his life.