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An outside perspective on why the Maple Leafs’ season was neither a success or failure

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Barden
1 year ago
The Maple Leafs’ season wasn’t one of the greatest success stories, but there’s a chance for growth in a lot of areas, and that’s somewhat promising.
Players and staff within the Maple Leafs’ organization clearly weren’t thrilled to be sitting inside Ford Performance Centre on Monday discussing the season that was. There was plenty of disappointment, and so there should be within a team that had massive aspirations.
Looking at it from the outside, though, I believe it’s not a significant letdown, as it has been in previous years.
As Toronto marched on past the first series, eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, I remember plenty of fans not feeling stress at the beginning of round two. And as someone who sits amongst the fans but tries to be as unbiased as possible, I think I have the answer as to why there was less stress.
Inside the Maple Leafs’ organization, it’s about winning the Stanley Cup, as it should be. On the outside there’s a similar vibe, though to me it felt like a majority of fans were happy with Toronto finally slaying the demons and winning more than four games in the postseason.
The reason, at least to me, as to why there was less stress from the fans following round one was due to the unfamiliarity with the depth of the waters. And the relief of winning a playoff series.
When you’ve been waiting for one specific thing — and in this case, it’s Toronto winning a round — that’s all you want. Anything else after that would be great, especially for the people inside the organization itself. That’s what I’ve felt, at least.
Of course winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, but as an outsider looking in, there are 16 teams that start off on the trek to win the entire thing. 15 of those teams, nearly 350 players, and whoever else is a part of each organization, will be going home feeling like they missed an opportunity.
It’s one of the most difficult trophies in all of sports to win for a reason. Any team that wins is built to win, of course, but the amount of luck that’s involved, too, is preposterous.
Whether it be injuries, a hot goalie, or production from your most important players, everything needs to work successfully all at once. For nearly 28 games. If it doesn’t, then unfortunately you might run out of time, and luck, which is what I believe happened to the Maple Leafs.
Sergei Bobrovsky had a .943 save percentage in the series vs. Toronto after one of his worst regular seasons ever in the NHL. That’ll knock any team out of a series.
“You could just see the goaltender’s confidence growing,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said during his end of season media availability. “And as the goaltender’s confidence grows to that level, a team like Florida, who’s already confident, given they just knocked off Boston, they’re growing even more inside of that.”
Nobody is wrong for saying this was a missed opportunity, because it in fact was. But sometimes the cards that you are dealt are the ones that decide your fate. A tough pill to swallow, of course, but this wasn’t a disaster. It wasn’t an organizational downslide.
It was the playoffs, and unfortunately for Toronto, a number of things didn’t go their way this year.

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