The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most popular hockey teams in the world, with a huge fan base around the globe. This Canadian organization has won 13 Stanley Cups to this day, which is the second highest amount after the Montreal Canadiens.
A beautiful city, a wonderful arena, and a roster filled with some of the best players of this generation. But there is a catch. The Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup in 1967. Yes, that was 56 years ago. Their current length of drought is the longest in the whole National Hockey League. Many fans ask what the biggest problem is in Toronto. In fact, nobody knows exactly. There is huge pressure; the Maple Leafs fans want to see nothing but wins and great performances.
These. pic.twitter.com/vIdAtYESr0— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 3, 2023
The broken curse
Also, there was something called the first-round curse. This Canadian team came through the first round of Stanley Cup play-offs last season after 19 years. They beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the league's favorites, and then faced the Florida Panthers in the second round.
Well, it didn't go according to plan; the Maple Leafs were eliminated after four losses in five games, and their season ended. Again. There is no doubt that a team with Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, Mitchell Marner, or Mike Giordano has everything they need to be successful. General manager Brad Treliving knows that a technique, a hockey IQ, and a high number of goals are just not enough. It’s also the reason why he added players like Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and Ryan Reaves.
Though guys and ‘bad’ boys bring physicality, energy, and respect on ice. Now, opponents think twice if they want to cause problems for Tavares, Matthews or Marner; they'll know that Reaves or Domi can go for retaliation. This season, we can see many faces of the Maple Leafs. Sometimes they beat their rivals easily, some days they don't look very good but still manage to win, and often they just cannot put a puck through their opponent's goalie.
The mission is clear
It's clear that the main aim of the regular season is to get a ticket to the Stanley Cup playoffs, where everything is possible. The Maple Leafs know very well that hockey in the off-season is different, and every mistake can cause the end of their dream. The mission is clear: win the Stanley Cup. Cap hit is strict, and this team won't be together forever. Starboy Auston Matthews got a contract until 2028, but Nylander, Domi, Bertuzzi, Samsonov, Robertson, Liljegren, Lajoie, Giordano, Klingberg, Brodie, and many more players signed their contracts until the end of the current season.
For example, three of the four goalies (Jones, Samsonov, and Murray) can leave Toronto in the summer. Only Joseph Woll is under contract until 2025. It's now or never for this Maple Leafs' team. Sheldon Keefe is a modern coach who knows how to combine talent with hard work and create a relaxed atmosphere in the locker room. But time is ticking. In-form playing Swede Nylander knows that he will be wanted by literally every organization in the league; many guys are aware of their capabilities and opportunities. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season.
But now, there are still better and more experienced teams, such as the Vegas Golden Knights, the New York Rangers, or the Dallas Stars. Toronto was one of the organizations that took part in the NHL Global Series in Stockholm. We noticed both Tyler Bertuzzi and David Kämpf were using Rezztek® on their sticks instead of hockey tape in Sweden. This kind of trip can contribute to good a chemistry among the players and create some form of bond between them. We'll get all the answers in the coming weeks and months. The Maple Leafs are here; they are ready, and they know winning the Stanley Cup will bring them a taste of immortality.
Meet the Player: David Kämpf
We spoke with David Kämpf about the current season with the Maple Leafs.
How much pressure is there on Toronto to win the Stanley Cup this season?
We have a good team, and our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, but the league is very tough and balanced. So a lot depends on our form in the play-offs. I believe we can prepare as well as possible and go as far as we can.
You played the Global Series in Prague and Stockholm; how do you rate these NHL events?
I'm definitely positive about it. It's a great experience for the fans, and I think also for the players who get to know something new, or for us Europeans, it's great that we can play close to home and our family can see us. But for me, I would do these games before the start of the season instead of during the season because of the long travel and time shift.
Last season, you tried to surprise the goalie with a "Michigan." Will you try it again?
If I have the opportunity and the chance to score, why not? But it's not like I'm going into the game and saying I'm going to do this today. It's more about the moment I see an opportunity, I want to score, and there's not much other option than this type of finish from behind the goal.
Featured Image Credits: Toronto Sun, THN