Toronto Maple Leafs blow it again

Toronto Maple Leafs blow it again: Is the Big Four era over?

  • Austin Matthews
  • Beyonce
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • John Tavares
  • Kyle Dubas
  • Lebron James
  • Mitch Marner
  • NHL
  • Sheldon Keefe
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Travis Dermott
  • Tyson Barrie
  • William Nylander
By Nick Holz August 12, 2020 0 Comment

The Toronto Maple Leafs season was perfectly encapsulated by a John Tavares shot that rang off the post in the first period. Tavares missed a wide open cage, squandering what would end up as the Leafs best chance of the night. Alas, it was never meant to be for these Leafs. A sublime effort from Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Joonas Korpisalo eliminated Toronto in the deciding game 5.

This was suppose to be THE year in Toronto. Two straight exits at the hands of the hated Boston Bruins had left fans in the depths of despair. The 2020 calendar has been different for so many reasons, but the NHL has done a phenomenal job of organizing a return to the ice. The Buds were heavy favorites heading into the play-in series against Columbus. Playing in their home arena, merely steps from most of their homes, who would’ve thought it was the Leafs who looked lost on the ice?

Law firm of Tavares, Matthews & Marner is overrated

Leafs captain John Tavares is now just 1-5 in playoff series in his career, and 0-2 as a Maple Leaf. As we head into a major league wide cap crunch, it may be time for Toronto to start regretting signing number 91. Make no mistake, Johnny T has been a steady presence putting up 148 points in 145 games in the capital of Ontario. However, playoff failings like these will leave a lot to be desired in the hockey capital of the world.

Not to say the former Oshawa General has been bad in Toronto, but the playoffs are where legends are made. Tavares, Matthews and Marner were paired against the other teams top players, where it matters most, and failed. Regardless of their individual statistics, this group simply has not done enough to win games in the post-season. If Tavares, Matthews & Marner are the generational talents team executives and Leafs nation believe them to be, they should be blowing teams like Columbus right out of the rink.

Face the facts Leafs fans, Toronto was shut out in two of five games. A monumental comeback was needed to win in game 4. Remove the four goals scored in a 15-minute section of game four and overtime, and the Leafs scored five goals, in five games. The Big Four played well, but showed that this top-heavy team will struggle to win playoff hockey games. The Leafs were soundly beaten by a far more disciplined team. Columbus failed to score a single power play goal..and won.

Toronto’s All-Stars were outplayed by the grit and grind Blue Jackets. Ultimately, Leafs players simply lacked the urgency and intensity of another former General, Boone Jenner. The skill and two way play of Pierre-Luc Dubois, backed by a dominant defensive pairing in Seth Jones and Seth Werenski, and a pair of outstanding goaltenders was too much for the Leafs to overcome.

Salary Cap is set to be the Leafs worst enemy

Looking towards the 2020-21 season, the league has already warned of the upcoming salary cap reckoning. The four-year extension signed to the current collective bargaining agreement guarantees the salary cap will flatline next season. Therefore, teams will have just 81.5 million dollars to play with. The Firm, or Leafs’ first line, will account for nearly half that number next season. Additionally, the cap number is unlikely to change much in the coming years. Especially if the NHL fails to recover quickly from the affects of COVID-19. All reports point to the salary cap number moving at a snails pace over the next few seasons.

Thus, Leafs General Manager Kyle Dubas is set to face a legit cap conundrum. Toronto already has a projected cap hit of $76.9 million for the upcoming season. With only 17 players signed! That’s prior to extensions for the likes of top six defenseman Tyson Barrie and Travis Dermott, who are sure to want raises on their current salaries. All of a sudden the $40 million owed to Marner, Tavares, Matthews and William Nylander per season over the next three years is incredibly steep.

Raptors Rule the 6ix

Toronto is a basketball city! Many fans remember a time when the Leafs would beat up on the Ottawa Senators every year in the playoffs, only to fall in the conference finals just as the hype train got rolling. That era was reminiscent of the Kyle Lowry-Demar DeRozan Raptors, the difference being the Leafs are still waiting for a breakthrough. Raptors basketball brought the city a long awaited parade last summer, and at this point, it could be years before the Leafs do the same.

Anyone holding onto the memory that there’s nothing like playoff hockey in Toronto needs to wake up. The last time the Leafs won a playoff series, the flip phone was the epitome of cool, Lebron James had just finished his rookie season, and Beyonce was still a member of Destiny’s Child. The NHL still had ties! Remember those? Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin had yet to be drafted, and Austin Matthews was in kindergarten. Toronto no longer bleeds blue.

Ultimately, the Leafs failure to invest on the back end will continue to be their downfall. This off-season is the perfect time to switch gears. Let me remind you, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only NHL team who hasn’t won a playoff series in the salary cap era. Dubas and Co. committing over $40 million to four forwards simply isn’t sustainable. Change is needed in Toronto. Thankfully, it’s still a basketball town.

 

 

 

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