A New Life in Leafs Nation
Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs sat at the bottom of the league. However, after drafting Auston Matthews first overall, this is one rookie who is stealing hearts and breaking franchise records.
There is a new life in Leafs Nation filled with promise. The Leafs have not seen a Stanley Cup in 50 years. In fact, their last championship season was the very last season before the league expansion. To put that into perspective, there were still only six teams in the league at the time. There are currently 30 teams and there will be 31 next year with the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Leaf fans have been waiting a long time for luck to turn around. With the 2015 signing of coach Mike Babcock and the signing of hard-nosed general manager Lou Lamoriello, it was clear that Leafs president Brendan Shanahan was not fooling around. The Maple Leafs currently have a team full of young players who are making their marks within their first years of play.
Matthews, the Leafs first overall pick in the 2016 entry draft, has been setting new franchise rookie records for goals, 39, and points with 67. However, he is not the only one raising the bar in Toronto. Mitch Marner, the fourth overall pick from the 2015 draft, set a new Leafs rookie record for assists and is currently sitting at 42. While William Nylander, a first round pick in the 2014 draft, set a new franchise rookie record for longest point streak with at least one point in 12 straight games.
With the playoffs looming, the rookies are looking forward to playing a much tougher style of hockey. The current layout suggests that perhaps the Maples Leafs are matched up with the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. This sparks memories for Leaf fans.
“I had to go into work the next morning. A dude came in wearing a Boston Bruins baseball hat. I just stared at him and asked, ‘Why are you doing this,’” said Omar White, a life-long Leafs fan. White is referring to the morning after one of the most heartbreaking defeats in Leafs history.
May 13, 2013. Game Seven. Leafs and Bruins. Two rivals, two original six franchises.
The Leafs led 4-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period. It all went downhill from there. Leafs goaltender at the time, James Reimer, did all he could to fend off the relentless Bruins squad, but would be hung out to dry on four unanswered goals. This included the overtime heartbreaker. The Bruins would later go on to play in the Stanley Cup final, but fall to the Chicago Blackhawks.
This could possibly be a chance at redemption for the Leafs. White has a fantasy of what could be a scenario for the rematch.
“Mitch Marner ties it late, Matthews gets the overtime winner. Yes please! I would be in tears, I can see the Sportsnet special now,” said White.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are still looking to clinch a playoff birth and their last two games may be their most difficult. To end the season they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 8 and the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 9. They must win at least one of their remaining games to claim a playoff position. The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning have two games remaining as well and sit three points behind the Leafs for the last wild-card position.