Maple Leafs’ Repeat Strategy Fails: What’s Next for the Team?

Toronto Maple Leafs: A Postmortem After Another Early Playoff Exit

Yet again, the Toronto Maple Leafs have experienced another early playoff exit. Despite an admirable effort, the team’s core – Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly – failed to deliver the desired result. With another disappointing season in the books, the question becomes: what now for the Leafs?

Post-Game Analysis: A Core Issue?

Despite the bleak mood in the dressing room, players like William Nylander refused to blame the team’s core for the loss. The team battled hard, pushing the series to Game 7 OT. But the results are what they are. The Leafs haven’t gotten close at all. Running it back with this core has not worked.

The Leafs’ Persistent Strategy: A Double-Edged Sword

The Leafs’ repeated decision to maintain their core has proven to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it shows a strong belief in their star players. But on the other, it’s clear that the status quo hasn’t solved anything. The Leafs were dispatched again in the first round. Running it back one more time backfired.

Time for Change: A New Direction for the Leafs?

The question now is whether it’s finally time for the Leafs to pivot in a major way. And if so, who gets to make that call? And what exactly does it mean? The question of running it back has to include the member of the core — management division — that never gets mentioned: Shanahan.

Shanahan’s Role in the Leafs’ Strategy

No one is more responsible for the Leafs running back the same top end of the roster for so long without playoff results than him. If there was anyone who believed in the power of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares, and Rielly to get it done, it was him. But after 10 seasons as team president, Shanahan’s Leafs have won only one playoff round.

Looking Forward: What Now for the Leafs?

The Leafs had an opportunity to pivot in whatever direction they liked last offseason before no-movement clauses kicked in on the contracts of Marner, Nylander, and Matthews. But now, a decision regarding the core feels obvious. It’s clear that the Leafs boxed themselves in by waiting as long as they did. It’s going to be hard to make a good trade involving Marner, if that’s the route they take.

Final Thoughts: Can the Leafs Make the Necessary Changes?

Can Shanahan and Treliving execute a Marner trade in a way that makes the Leafs better, or at worst, different? Not anymore. The Leafs need to be different and get better at the same time. Running it back — again — isn’t an option. As the dust settles on another early exit, the Leafs face a challenging offseason, with difficult decisions and potential changes on the horizon.