The Maple Leafs shouldn’t be eager to bring back each of the core four

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Barden
11 months ago
I get it, and it makes sense, but the Maple Leafs shouldn’t try to bring back all of the core four.
For nearly four years, Toronto has set the team on a path forward with Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander leading the way. Through the narrow windings of the Maple Leafs’ trail, the core-four has helped guide this team to an unfound spot on the map.
After defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, there was an inkling as though Toronto had been approaching the promised land. A place where the grass was as green as ever, where the sun was shining as bright as ever, and where it felt like absolutely nothing could go wrong.
Except three days later, Toronto had found themselves being approached by the Florida Panthers, who encircled the Maple Leafs and attacked until there was no life left.
Not even two weeks after fireworks rang off at the intersection of York and Bremner, the team that once thought they had found the promised land ended up actually falling to a darker place.
The sun wasn’t shining. The birds weren’t chirping. And the one person, who’d built the team that thought they found paradise, was sent packing, looking for a new tribe to join.
Toronto, as they continue down the path, are now approaching an unfound spot on the map again. And instead of continuing down the road of comfortability, they should instead veer into the path less travelled.
Shortly after Kyle Dubas was let go by Toronto, Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan reportedly called each of the core-four, sharing the news that their GM would no longer be with the club.
Those phone calls, according to TSN Insider and SDPN’s Chris Johnston, left the four players “believing that Brendan Shanahan’s intention is to bring the entire core four back.”
If you remember back to Dubas’ final media availability with the Maple Leafs, he said he “wouldn’t take anything off the table,” when it came to making a massive trade, potentially involving one of the core-four, this summer.
When that was said, it seemed as though Toronto was open to the idea of taking the road less travelled. That was, until a few days later when Shanahan stepped foot in Dubas’ office, informing him he would no longer be the GM of the Maple Leafs.
That move was a seismic shift in itself, but I don’t believe it was one in which would change the outcome of a future playoff series next year.
Bringing back the same four players, in Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Nylander, can be beneficial. However, those benefits might not bring you to lifting a Stanley Cup in just over a year’s time.
It’s like walking up a steep hill — trying to get to the top — and sliding back down after multiple attempts. Eventually you’re going to need to try something different, and to me, this might be the perfect opportunity for Toronto to do so.
There’ll be a new GM of the Maple Leafs in the coming weeks, and it seems as though it’ll likely be former Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving. It’s possible he could come in and shake things up, similarly to what happened in Calgary last summer.
Matthew Tkachuk forced his hand, of course, though Treliving did do a great job of bringing back a substantial return. Maybe he can do the same with the Maple Leafs?
If all four of Matthews, Marner, Tavares, and Nylander are leaving conversations with Shanahan assuming they won’t be traded, it’s possible their fate has already been decided. Along with that, I’m sure Shanahan would have those discussions with the next GM, prior to hiring them.
But for now, the Maple Leafs continue down a winding path with what looks like no end in sight. Who they bring in next could have another piece of the map to greatness, or a part that they’ve already had in their pockets.
Only the future holds the answer to this equation.

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