With the complete collapse from the Leafs’ stars in their 1st round series against Montreal, the management team is now faced with a flurry of questions.
While they backed their highly skilled and highly paid group of star players, they have to be asking themselves if this group has what it takes to take this team through 4 rounds of playoff hockey. It’s been 5 straight years of series appearances for the same group and the results have been 4 first round exits and a “play-in” round loss, which resulted in the team failing to make the playoffs at all.
Another question that has to be raised. Can Kyle Dubas expect to be able to continue to sign veteran depth at discounted rates to join a group of players that seem incapable of putting the effort and will into winning so much as a single playoff round? Will players like Joe Thornton, Zach Bogosian and Wayne Simmonds accept a discounted rate of pay in order to come to Toronto to chase a Stanley Cup, or will they think they are better off taking league minimum deals with other clubs that are actual contenders?
I can’t tell you for certain which players grew up as Leaf fans and would like to fulfill the dream of playing for their childhood teams. However, some free agents that are hitting the market this year that are Ontario natives include the Staal brothers, Eric and Marc and Brad Richardson (among others, I assume), all of whom could help this club in depth roles.
That’s not including current players Wayne Simmonds and Nick Foligno that may have been privy to return. Will this experience have soured their desire to stay in Toronto? Only they can answer that but Simmonds did have this to say:
Wayne Simmonds: "It was definitely an honour to put the blue and white on this year."— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) June 2, 2021
Simmonds said "I've got no clue" about his future, but he "thoroughly enjoyed" his time with the #Leafs.
Sounds like a player that is under the impression that he won’t return.
As far as Nick Folino is concerned it’s assumed that the team won’t be able to afford his services. With little cap space to go around it would be right to assume that, but it would be terrific to be able to keep the veteran forward.
A final question: Is all of this a good thing?
At times I’ve asked myself if the Leafs’ core realizes that THEY have to be the ones to lead this team through all of this. It’s on them and them alone to get to the next level.
Have they not realized that Joe Thornton was here to follow, not lead? That Wayne Simmonds came here to help protect them from harm so that they would be on the ice to finish the other team off?
Is it possible that having no experienced voice in the room at a pivotal point in the season could make them wake up and not just speak, but realize that they need to back up their words and get the job done?
Is it time to thrust greatness upon those that have, at this time, not earned it?
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.