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The Toronto Maple Leafs are back and here to stay


It’s been a long time coming, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally back and looking better than ever. After years of being the laughing stock of the NHL, the Leafs have turned things around in a big way, making the playoffs in each of the last six seasons, (albeit not getting past the first round) and becoming one of the best teams in the league in the process.

Thanks to a core of young stars led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, the future is bright in Toronto. And with some key additions to the lineup this offseason such as the recent acquisitions of Noel Acciari and Ryan O’Reilly there’s no reason to think that they won’t be contending for this year’s Stanley Cup.

Maple Leafs trade for Ryan O'Rielly and Noel Acciari

The Current Season

As things stand this term, the Scotiabank Arena outfit is currently sitting pretty in the Atlantic Division. They have picked up 35 wins from their 58 games played so far this season, and they are odds on to make it seven consecutive playoff appearances at the culmination of the current campaign.

While the Maple Leafs are having a stellar campaign and are in championship contention for the first time in what feels like an eternity, it is their Atlantic Division rivals who many feel are the team to beat. The Boston Bruins are currently the only team above Toronto in their division, and they have picked up a whopping 43 victories from 56 games this term. As such, the latest NHL odds from Bodog make the Massachusetts-based outfit the favourite to take home the Stanley Cup for the first time in over a decade.

The Rebuild Begins

It all started with a change in philosophy. After years of trying to win with high-priced veterans and big-name free agents, then-Leafs president Brendan Shanahan decided to tear it all down and start from scratch. That meant trading away players like Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf in exchange for draft picks and prospects. It was a tough pill to swallow for Leafs’ fans at the time, but it was clear that something needed to be done if the team was ever going to get out of its annual cycle of mediocrity.

The Turning Point

The rebuild got a major boost in 2016 when the Leafs won the draft lottery and selected Auston Matthews with the first overall pick. Matthews had impressed as a youngster, firstly with the U.S. National Development Team and then in Switzerland with the ZSC Lions, and as expected, he made an immediate impact. He scored 40 goals and provided a further 29 assists as a rookie, quickly establishing himself as one of the best players in the league. His arrival signaled that the rebuild was ahead of schedule and that the Leafs were on their way back to prominence.

In his first campaign in Toronto, Matthews led his team back to the playoffs for the first time in four years and for just the second time since 2005. That achievement was particularly impressive considering the fact that the Maple Leafs finished rock bottom of the Atlantic Division the year before, managing a paltry 29 wins from their 82 games that year, some six less than the team directly above them and the lowest in the entire league that year. But they wouldn’t rest on their laurels.

The Maple Leafs haven’t won a series in the postseason since 2013 when they reached the conference quarterfinals. In the years since, there have been heartbreaking defeats such as the one to the Montreal Canadiens in 2021.

Recent Playoff Heartbreak

Since 2016, the Leafs have made the playoffs six times in a row, something they hadn’t done since the turn of the millennium. In 2020/21, they managed to win the Atlantic Division for the first time in over two decades. That year, they picked up 35 victories from the shortened 56-game season. But there is one thing that still eludes them, a playoff victory.

The Maple Leafs haven’t won a series in the postseason since 2013 when they reached the conference quarterfinals. In the years since, there have been heartbreaking defeats such as the one to their biggest rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. The same year they topped the Atlantic Division, they headed into a game seven rubber match on home turf against their fellow Canadians however, they succumbed to a 3-1 defeat.

Their six-year playoff streak has ended in the opening round on each and every occasion. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins (twice), and Washington Capitals, have all handed out bitter blows to the Maple Leafs in recent years. But could that shocking postseason run be set to come to an end this season?

It’s been a long road back to relevance for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they’re finally starting to look like a contender again. With their core of young stars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander still intact and more help on the way, there’s no reason to think that the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t be contending for a Stanley Cup any time soon.

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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