The 19-20 Maple Leafs
Could this be the year? The sentence that every leaf fan has asked for the past 53 years. The sentence that we all want to stop asking ourselves. But why not? Why can’t this be the year. In my 27 years of believing in this team I don’t think I have ever had as much optimism. I have never seen a team constructed as solid, as deep as this team.
Even before the salary cap era, there were good teams but never great teams. The Sundin, Gilmore or even the Sittler era's never brought greatness to this storied franchise, but are we witnessing history? In an era where the game has changed from brute force and strength; to speed, skill and awareness we have never had a group assembled like the one we do now.
I remember the early days, after going to bed late after watching Sergei Berezin skating circles around everyone before usually sniping one top shelf. Always making a play with the puck was something that really pulled me into the sport. I hadn’t seen that magic again until after the 2014 draft, when the Leafs started to look like a threat again. Drafting Nylander, a year later Marner then after that Matthews. With those three players, all that magic started to come back.
Dubas had stated he would get those three players signed and he did. Now does that affect them in the long run? Maybe, but it’s a new age of sports that we have never seen before. Win now, and worry about the future later. Yes, teams do construct themselves upon a budget for down the road, but budgets change in any business and no one knows what the future will hold.
Its been stated that no cup winning team has ever won spending forty-million dollars on four players. Could this be the year that changes?
The cup winning teams of the Blackhawks and Penguins in years past, have built a similar winning structure. Start with a solid core and fill in the blanks with either entry level contacts or PTOs. Of course, the hawks and pens didn’t pay their cores until after they won rings. But the same theory has been put in place on this Leafs team. Their core has been built to score goals and maintain possession of the puck, throughout all zones of the ice. This will put a high demand on a defensive structure that has looked weak in years past.
The improvement on the blue line might be the most important part of this team. Adding in two right shot defenders, and a young confident teenager has this defence looking the best that it has in many years, since the Dion Phaneuf days… insert pilon joke here. Jake Muzzin looks like the shutdown big man we have been searching for decades and if his play, along side Tyson Barrie can compliment each other we may have one of the most underrated top 4 defences in the league.
At the start of every hockey season there is always optimism, but as the puck drops on the 2019-2020 season questions will be answered, defences will be tested, and the look of a new game will take shape. As a Leafs fan I hope that age old question will be answered and break the long-awaited drought of lifting Lord Stanley.