It is officially time for the Toronto Maple Leafs players to come out of hibernation and work toward becoming Stanley Cup champions. The organization has made some great changes, but will these changes be enough to get the Leafs past more than just the first round?
Goodbye Dubas, and hello Treliving
At the end of the 2022–2023 season, the Leafs didn’t extend the contract of former General Manager (GM) Kyle Dubas. With the lack of a GM, the Leafs needed to find someone to fill that void. Luckily, Brad Treliving’s contract with the Calgary Flames was also up. The Leafs’ president, Brendan Shanahan, decided that hiring Treliving as the new Leafs GM was the right move.
The Leafs definitely feel a sense of urgency to build a team that is ready to win. If Treliving is willing to work and improve the Leafs, fans could potentially look forward to the 2024 playoffs.
Out with the old, in with the new
Many familiar names on the Leafs have departed, leaving space on the roster that the team needed to fill. Defenseman Justin Holl signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings — a decision that many fans argued needed to happen. Elsewhere, defensemen Luke Schenn and center Ryan O’Reilly both signed contracts with the Nashville Predators. Additionally, right winger Noel Acciari signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Leafs saw two significant departures when forward Alexander Kerfoot signed a two-year, $7-million contract with the Arizona Coyotes and forward Michael Bunting signed a three-year, $13.5-million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. Bunting was an effective player for the Leafs, but after a rocky performance and a three-game suspension for an illegal check in the playoffs, his time with the team came to an end.
Yet, the team also saw new additions. Winger Ryan Reaves was signed to a three-year, $4.05-million contract. Fans are pleased to see a player with true grit being added to the roster, and Reaves is not afraid to put himself in the penalty box to protect a teammate.
Other notable additions to the team are defenseman John Klingberg, who signed a one-year, $4.15-million contract, and forward Tyler Bertuzzi with a one-year, $5.5-million contract. Bertuzzi may not be a star player on the roster, but with time fans can anticipate seeing him shine and possibly even become one of the top goal scorers. Finally, forward Max Domi decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Tie Domi, and joined the team.
What about the “core four”?
In terms of the Leafs’ “core four” — Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander — not much has changed. Marner’s and Tavares’ contracts are not up until the end of the 2024–2025 season. Further, the Leafs were successful in securing four more years with Matthews as he signed a four-year, $53-million contract. So far, he’s had a hot start to the season with back-to-back hat tricks in his first two games. With Matthews re-signing, fans have expectations to see Matthews score 60 goals, and possibly compete for the Hart Trophy once again.
Nylander is arguably one of the most relaxed players in the league. His contract is up at the end of this season, and although fans are impatiently waiting for the player to sign an extension with the Leafs, Nylander doesn’t seem to be bothered. “I still have one more year left, so, I mean, I don’t really understand what the big rush is,” Nylander said in an interview with Sportsnet.
Fans are expecting more out of this “core four” as there have been moments where the players have seemed too unbothered by the Leafs’ consistent playoff shortcomings. Fans desperately want to see them actively working toward winning the Stanley Cup.
So, are the Leafs cup-bound? They’ve made changes, but are those changes enough?
There is no doubt that the players must work incredibly hard if they plan to attain the Stanley Cup. Only time will tell whether or not their changes will be effective. In the meantime, Leafs fans will stand behind their team, claiming, “This is our year.”