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A Change Is Needed – Toronto Maple Leafs

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A Change Is Needed – Toronto Maple Leafs

It feels as though hockey fans in Toronto have seen this movie before. Another year filled with high hopes, another year ended with a first-round playoff exit, and an offseason filled with what ifs? Yes, it would take a heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, against a better opponent, but at no point were the Maple Leafs in control of their first-round playoff series.

For the third straight year, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished with over 100 points (102) in the regular season, once again qualifying for the post-season. For the seventh time in eight years, the team flamed out in the first round, leaving fans across the country wondering what exactly went wrong, again, and how to fix the problem moving forward.

No Offence Taken

The 2023-24 Leafs featured a high-octane, high-scoring offense led by the dynamic trio of Auston Matthews (107 points), William Nylander (98 points), and Mitch Marner (85 points). Matthews paced the team with 69 goals, while Nylander chipped in with 40 and John Tavares rounded out the top three with 29 as the Leafs netted 303 goals during the regular season, one short of the top-ranked Colorado Avalanche.

After averaging 3.69 goals during the 82-game regular season, the Leafs offense fizzled during their seven games against the Boston Bruins, scoring just 12 goals, an average of 1.71. Yes playoff hockey, especially against a team like the Bruins is more defensive-minded and physical, limiting scoring opportunities and disrupting the offensive flow.

The loss of Matthews (2 games) and Nylander (3 games) was obvious as the Leafs struggled to score both in 5-on-5 play and man-advantage situations.

The Puck Stops Here

The Leafs’ line of defense and their goaltending weren’t exactly the worst throughout the season, but they certainly could have been better. Finishing 19th of the 32 teams in goals allowed, teams, especially Boston exploited the Leafs’ defensive lapses and second-chance opportunities.

While Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll posted impressive regular season numbers, it would be Woll who stood out as the better of the two during the playoffs posting a .964 save percentage in his two games played allowing just two goals on 56 shots.

Coaches Clipboard

In sports, it is easy to blame the coach for losses and congratulate the players for victories. In the case of Sheldon Keefe, some of his decisions during the playoffs left many fans scratching their heads. While he was deemed to be a player-friendly coach and the polar opposite of Mike Babcock, Keefe’s laid-back approach and lack of changes and adjustments at key moments in big games likely led to the Leafs’ quick departure from the playoffs.

The Changes Are Coming

Entering the 2023-24 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were among the top three favorites to win the Stanley Cup. While the odds dropped significantly entering the playoffs, the Leafs were still among the top ten to capture the championship. The pressure of winning in Canada’s biggest hockey market is immense, fueled by a diehard fanbase, the constantly growing presence of Canadian sports betting apps, and a 57-year championship drought the Leafs need to do something moving forward.

Yes, the Leafs have a roster full of talented youngsters and experienced vets who mixed together to create regular-season success, but that has yet to translate into any type of playoff glory. After yet another early-round playoff exit, that fanbase is becoming even more restless and whispers of changes are starting to become louder and louder.

Should Toronto go as far as blowing it all up? That would be extreme, but there is little doubt that some renovations will be made.

Immediately after Toronto’s season came to an abrupt halt, the team replaced Keefe with Craig Berube, coach of the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. Gone is the coddling, country club culture that Keefe brought the team, replaced by a more structured, accountable style that brought Berube success as a head coach.

Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares eat up a lot of the team’s salary, combining for over $45 million, limiting the Leafs’ ability to add depth, which includes the need for two-way players with playoff experience. While it’s nice to have a young trio of high-scoring talent, moving one of the three could bring in the pieces the Leafs need to compete in the grit and grind of the playoffs. One of the worst defensive teams in the league, swapping one of their young offensive stars for defensive help could be a step in the right direction.

After former GM Kyle Dubas’s teams brought just a single division title and five playoff appearances, new GM Brad Treliving has not done much better in his first year as the architect of the Leafs. The addition of Berube is a step in the right direction, but in order for the Leafs to accomplish their ultimate goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to Toronto for the first time since 1967, expect more changes to come.

SEE ALSO: Galatasaray vs. Fenerbahce: Turkish Super Cup Final Postponed In Riyadh

Salman Ahmad is a seasoned writer for CTN News, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise to the platform. With a knack for concise yet impactful storytelling, he crafts articles that captivate readers and provide valuable insights. Ahmad's writing style strikes a balance between casual and professional, making complex topics accessible without compromising depth.

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