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DAN CEARNS The Standard


Unfortunately, we’ve come to the end of another Toronto Maple Leafs season, recently, with yet another early playoff exit. This time, the team fell to the Boston Bruins, in Game 7 of the first round in overtime.

If it wasn’t clear before, that significant changes need to be made, it is now. While it was a tight, hard fought series, the fact remains, this is the seventh time in eight seasons the Leafs failed to win a playoff series. Last year there was progress, with the team eliminating the Tampa Bay Lightning, to advance to the second round before losing to the Florida Panthers. Now, we’re back in familiar territory.

Let’s remember the regular season, though featuring some individual records set, it saw a step back as well. The team finished the season with four less wins than they had a year prior, 46 instead of 50. They failed, at times, to beat lesser teams, like the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Ottawa Senators.

The core, of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares, have been with this team for seven of the eight Leafs failed playoff runs. This is also on the high end, in terms of salary expenses, for core players, with all four making over $10 million. This not only has limited what players the team can afford to sign, but has altered the playoff success expected from them. Let’s not forget, the team failed to score more than three goals in a playoff game, during this seven-game series. For a team priding itself on creating offence, that is a serious concern. I’d argue, you have to trade one of those four players, to better equip your team for more rounded success.

To their credit, the team recently announced they’d fired head coach Sheldon Keefe, which is the first step. While he won a lot of games in the regular season, his playoff success was not there, and he seemed to be out coached by his opponents in several of those series. Now the big question remains, who will replace him behind the bench. With a core of superstars in their prime, Leafs’ management can’t afford to get the decision on the next head coach, wrong.

It's disappointing to be in this situation again. Eliminated from the playoffs, another year of the Brendan Shanahan led era, leading to little success, and with a team once again searching for solutions. Still, hockey is a results driven business, and right now, the results are saying big changes are needed.

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