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Identity: the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.

 We’re told that this core of Toronto Maple Leafs are still looking for their identity.

When we talk about teams and their identity we often grasp at obscure concepts rather than concrete definitions. Terms such as “gritty” and “heart” get thrown around, and the closest to a tangible definition one can muster would be “defense first” or “highly skilled.” 

The current rendition of the New York Islanders would fall under a team that identifies as defense first. Meanwhile, their Eastern Conference Final opponents, the Tampa Bay Lightning are labeled high skilled and high scoring. We could dive into facts if we want. One fact is that the Lightning and Islanders have an identical 2.29 GA/GP and a nearly identical 3.29 (NYI) and 3.36 (TBL) GF/GP (as of the morning of Sept 9) in the 2020 playoffs. 

Identity be damned. These teams can score goals AND defend. 

A reminder, Identity: The FACT of being who or what a person or thing is.

The fact is that those teams can identify as being terrific teams in all three zones. 

The fact is that Tampa Bay and New York were 8th and 9th in the regular season in terms of GA/GP, while the Toronto Maple Leafs were 26th. 

The fact is those teams seem determined to take care of their own home first, and worry about scoring goals later, while the Maple Leafs seem content to play a pond hockey style of game. 

The very sad fact is that this isn’t going to get Toronto anywhere, unless you consider 1st round exits getting somewhere. 

Meanwhile, people point towards rosters that were molded and formed over a decade, and suggest taking a breath before getting too excited and demanding change. 

They’ll also tell you that comparing this team to any other is foolhardy. “So what if no other team commits nearly half its cap space to 4 players? This isn’t any other team.” 

Of course they’re right. This isn’t any other team. This is a team full of players that are more than willing to fight for every last dollar and then get offended when people refer to them as the negotiation line when Nylander, Matthews and Marner are placed together.


The fact of being who or what a person or thing is.

So what is it? What is this thing we call the Toronto Maple Leafs today? What are the facts?

  • It’s a fact that this team has won more negotiations against its own best interest than it has playoff rounds. It’s also a fact that to change those numbers they’d have to win at least 4 rounds, which seems impossible at the moment if I’m being honest. 
  • It’s a fact that this team, as a whole, can’t (or won’t) show the passion, heart, or respect that the jersey they wear deserves. 

The proof of that fact lies in the roll-over-and-play-dead approach to meaningful games. The return of John Tavares to the Islanders…. They laid an egg. Facing a zamboni driver goaltender for far too many minutes….. They laid an egg. Games 7, 7, and 5….. They laid an egg. The list is long folks, and my patience for it is short so let’s move on. 

  • It’s a fact that this team hasn’t been in the top 10 in GA/GP since the 2002/03 season. 

Identity indeed. 

This team knows it’s identity. In their heart of hearts they know it. It’s just a terrible identity that’s embarrassing. This is a team that tries to outscore it’s problems, because trying hard to shut down the other team is difficult, but cheating for offense isn’t. Cheating for offense means you only have to skate hard when you’re facing the oppositions net. Shutting the other team down means you need to fight for every loose puck, win races, play physically, and actually care for the fans, the city, and the jersey. Above all else the jersey needs to be loved. I don’t feel that a single player in Toronto sees it that way right now. I feel that they’re too consumed in fighting back against the fans and media than they are fighting for pucks and wins. 

Identity: the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. 

They are winless in the playoffs. 

They are rich. 

They are entitled. 

They are not driven. 

They are disrespectful to everything it means to be a Maple Leaf. 

They are embarrassing. 

You wanted an identity. Well, there you have it.

My next piece will be based around suggestions about how to change their identity.