Leafs Trending Upwards
By Patrick Hoffman
If you're a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you've been waiting a very long to win another Cup.
Your team has not won hockey's Holy Grail in 51 years. If you're keeping track at home, that's not very good.
They got to the Conference Finals in 1993, 1994, 1999, and 2002. Since those times, they have not come close to even sniffing a Cup.
The good news is that it appears that times are changing for the blue and white. The Leafs have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and were especially impressive this season by cracking the 100-point mark (105) and finishing seventh overall in the entire league.
Believe it or not, there is a lot to look forward to in Leafs Land. For starters, you have a great young core.
Players like Auston Matthews (63 points), Mitch Marner (69 points), William Nylander (61 points), Nazem Kadri (55 points), Kasperi Kapanen (9 points), and Morgan Rielly (52 points) all figure to be a part of the Leafs for years to come. These guys are young, fast, and can put up points.
Secondly, goaltender Frederick Andersen is a guy that is going to continue to help the Leafs win a ton of hockey games. He won 38 games this year and despite playing behind a very young defense, finished the season with a 2.81 goals against average, a .918 save percentage, and five shutouts.
This team has also now experienced the playoffs two seasons in a row. Last season, they lost to the Washington Capitals in a hard fought six game series and this year, they took the Boston Bruins to a 7th game and almost managed to pull off the upset.
The franchise also has an extremely reliable and experienced coach in Mike Babcock. Since joining the Leafs a few seasons ago, he has put this team back on the map and made them one of the most exciting clubs in the league. Sure, winning a Cup would be nice, but he is respecting the process and building his club the right way.
Lastly, the team now has a new and young general manager in Kyle Dubas. Dubas has more than paid his dues and has built both an Ontario Hockey League franchise (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and now AHL franchise (Marlies) into two successful hockey clubs. Hopefully he will be able to do the same with the Leafs.
The Leafs may still be searching for that elusive Cup, but believe it or not, they are a lot closer than people might think.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.