In The Midst Of This Lost Season, Can The Maple Leafs Turn It Around?

We’re already one recreation into the NHL season, and up to now the Toronto Maple Leafs have did not notch a unmarried win. With simply 81 extra video games left within the common season, the group from Canada’s greatest town sits an embarrassing 7th of their department, and fourth from the ground within the Eastern Conference, with a file of 0-1-0. What the hell is flawed with the Leafs?

Well on Wednesday evening, they blew it at the street in opposition to remaining NHL season’s large pushover, the Montreal Canadiens, when a wonderfully standard hockey contest gave solution to the forces of entropy within the ultimate two-and-a-half mins. The Leafs began smartly sufficient, getting the sport’s first objective from remaining 12 months’s breakout old-man rookie, Michael Bunting, and seeing every other excellent signal when the under-the-radar Denis Malgin scored in his first recreation since getting back from two years in Switzerland. But younger Habs pillar Cole Caufield stored it even with two targets of his personal, and so the rating stood tied heading into the general stretch. (The Leafs’ best possible probability at a lead was once denied when Jake Allen stopped an Alexander Kerfoot penalty shot.)

Then the curler coaster hit the highest of the hill. Sean Monahan—an excessively low-risk Montreal acquisition who appeared decimated, mentally and bodily, by way of accidents in Calgary—delivered what gave the look to be a storybook opening-night fulfillment when he transformed on a rebound to offer the house group a 3-2 lead. But whilst his title was once nonetheless being introduced over the PA, a unexpected turnover and a two-on-one allowed William Nylander to complete a John Tavares cross and tie the sport. Overtime? No method. With lower than 20 seconds at the clock, it was once Josh Anderson—a Montreal playoff hero now not all that way back—who discovered the puck on his stick ahead of he fired the winner previous Matt Murray.

Head trainer Sheldon Keefe had harsh phrases for his group after this momentous loss. “I don’t expect that,” he stated within the postgame. “For everything our team has been through together, that’s unacceptable. We got to be way more responsible. It was just careless. Just careless. I expect more. Our group should expect more. Not good enough. We deserve to lose.”

This failing mess of a Leafs group is actually going to want to pick out it up in the future within the subsequent 5 months. The group objective differential is within the pink. They’re trailing even the woeful Sabres (0-0-0) within the department. Top famous person Auston Matthews, after scoring a delirious 60 targets remaining 12 months, is on tempo for 0 this season. TSN 1050 has needed to rent rankings of disaster counselors to team of workers their telephone strains. The Toronto Argonauts, who take a seat atop their department with a 9-6 file within the CFL, are having a look increasingly more just like the kings of this town. At least they can win an in depth recreation in opposition to Montreal!

I’m joking about my intense worry after one recreation, after all, however I actually don’t envy the pressure-packed season those Leafs are in for. On paper they appear unbelievable—The Athletic’s preseason fashion pegged them for extra anticipated issues than every other group within the league. But it might taking a heaping dose of defiant, counterintuitive bravery for a real human to select them as Stanley Cup champions, for the reason that horror-movie vibes of this franchise stay immutable. The Leafs, who remaining hoisted the trophy in 1967, have long gone extra seasons with out a name than every other NHL franchise, and whilst the post-lockout, pre-Matthews era may just take solace from heartbreak simply for the reason that group was once by no means excellent sufficient to get any person’s hopes up, for the reason that most sensible pick out of the 2016 draft arrived in Toronto the roster has grow to be more and more gifted, and the edge in their ultimate effects has handiest sharpened.

In 2017, handiest their 2nd time making the playoffs since ahead of the ’04 lockout, the Leafs fell in six video games to the Capitals, in a sequence the place all however one recreation went to additional time. In 2018, they rallied again from a 3-1 hollow within the first spherical in opposition to the Bruins however misplaced Game 7. The Bruins beat them all over again in seven the following 12 months. In the 2020 bubble the Leafs misplaced a do-or-die recreation to Columbus. 2021 noticed the Canadiens pull off a significant seven-game disappointed on their solution to an not going Final look. And 2022, improbably, once more pressured the Leafs to visit seven video games within the first spherical, and once more they got here up quick.

This 12 months, in spite of uncertainty after a metamorphosis at goalie, the Leafs’ lineup will have to deserve top expectancies. GM Kyle Dubas has slowly however certainly constructed the protection from a former legal responsibility right into a cast staff with out a unmarried obvious susceptible hyperlink, and the highest two strains of the ahead gang disappointed opposing goalies like an icy snowball on a -10 stage day. (Celsius, clearly. I’m now not that sadistic.) If those Leafs had merely gave the impression out of skinny air, with none in their historical past weighing them down, you’d need to punch no less than 5 guys named Terry simply to discover a spot on their bandwagon.

Instead, even their very own trainer already turns out a bit edgy, and the avid gamers are caught in a beautiful unwinnable spot, no less than till spring. They may just run the desk all the relaxation in their 12 months—81-1-0—and all that might do is make fanatics even extra satisfied of forthcoming early playoff doom. It feels just like the Leafs had been given 82 video games for the only real function of making ready themselves for seven extra in April. Nothing they do at the moment actually issues, so long as they don’t fall out of the playoff image solely. But, um … I wouldn’t put that previous the Leafs both.

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