Much has been made lately about many of us Leafs fans taking great amazement at watching the Vancouver Canucks implosion. Maybe most of us don't actually mind the Canucks, we may actually like the team, or in fact like watching some of it's players.
But we don't really like many examples of the teams rabid fan-base so many of us Leafs fans find detestable. For some reason, the Canucks fans, even though they play in an entirely different conference, and division all-together seem to think we as Leafs fans are some of their biggest rivals. We Leafs fans often describe it as an imagined rivalry.
At any rate, I've developed this theory of the a 5-year window to get the job done and win a Cup. Sure there are some other examples of teams out there that don't win a Cup and continue to make the playoffs, but here's some of the same information I'm seeing. Let's start with the Canucks:
|2013-14||NHL||Vancouver Canucks||67||29||28||10||68||.507||-0.30||0.06||5th||J. Tortorella (29-28-10)|
|2012-13||NHL||Vancouver Canucks*||48||26||15||7||59||.615||0.07||-0.06||1st||Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals||A. Vigneault (26-15-7)|
|2011-12||NHL||Vancouver Canucks*||82||51||22||9||111||.677||0.57||-0.05||1st||Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals||A. Vigneault (51-22-9)|
|2010-11||NHL||Vancouver Canucks*||82||54||19||9||117||.713||0.87||-0.07||1st||Lost Stanley Cup Finals||A. Vigneault (54-19-9)|
|2009-10||NHL||Vancouver Canucks*||82||49||28||5||103||.628||0.60||-0.01||1st||Lost NHL Conference Semi-Finals||A. Vigneault (49-28-5)|
|2008-09||NHL||Vancouver Canucks*||82||45||27||10||100||.610||0.30||-0.02||1st||Lost NHL Conference Semi-Finals||A. Vigneault (45-27-10)|
|2007-08||NHL||Vancouver Canucks||82||39||33||10||88||.537||0.08||0.11||5th||A. Vigneault (39-33-10)|
So as you can clearly see, from 2007-08, when the Canucks basically bottomed out and missed the playoffs and went from 5th in 2007-2008, they began competing consistently for the next 5 years, including a Stanley Cup appearance in 2010-2011. Then they got rid of Vigneault, a questionable move and hired Tortorella. Of course then there were other issues like the Luongo contract fiasco. But the point is, they had their window, they got close, very close in fact but didn't get there. Now with many players, notably Luongo now shipped out of town, and the Sedin's aging upward, their window is closing. What does that mean? A re-build and drop-off was/is inevitable.
There are of course, some exceptions, I give you the Boston Bruins for example:
|2013-14||NHL||Boston Bruins||64||42||17||5||89||.695||0.85||-0.11||1st||C. Julien (42-17-5)|
|2012-13||NHL||Boston Bruins*||48||28||14||6||62||.646||0.44||-0.02||2nd||Lost Stanley Cup Finals||C. Julien (28-12-6)|
|2011-12||NHL||Boston Bruins*||82||49||29||4||102||.622||0.75||-0.07||1st||Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals||C. Julien (49-29-4)|
|2010-11||NHL||Boston Bruins*||82||46||25||11||103||.628||0.56||-0.07||1st||Won Stanley Cup Finals||C. Julien (46-25-11)|
|2009-10||NHL||Boston Bruins*||82||39||30||13||91||.555||0.01||-0.06||3rd||Lost NHL Conference Semi-Finals||C. Julien (39-30-13)|
|2008-09||NHL||Boston Bruins*||82||53||19||10||116||.707||0.89||-0.06||1st||Lost NHL Conference Semi-Finals||C. Julien (53-19-10)|
|2007-08||NHL||Boston Bruins*||82||41||29||12||94||.573||-0.20||-0.08||3rd||Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals||C. Julien (41-29-12)|
|2006-07||NHL||Boston Bruins||82||35||41||6||76||.463||-0.87||-0.01||5th||D. Lewis (35-41-6)|
So again, they bottomed out in 06-07, then re-built with a new coach. Ultimately winning the Cup in 2010-2011, and making another appearance in 2012-13. They are also pretty much guaranteed to win the division this year and who knows how far they will go in the playoffs. However, much of their team-core has changed. Chara and Rask are getting older, and many of their players. In fact, I count 8 roster players aged 30 or older. I also count 8 other players aged 27 or older. That means there is a potential drop-off for the Bruins coming. Most players with the exception of Lucic, Marchand, Hamilton and Krug, either in their prime or technically past their primes. Most NHLers are usually their most productive during there 25-28 years of age. After that, there's usually a drop-off.
Let's also look at the Chicago Blackhawks:
|2013-14||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks||65||38||13||14||90||.692||0.79||0.01||2nd||J. Quenneville (38-13-14)|
|2012-13||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks*||48||36||7||5||77||.802||1.04||-0.07||1st||Won Stanley Cup Finals||J. Quenneville (36-7-5)|
|2011-12||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks*||82||45||26||11||101||.616||0.14||0.02||4th||Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals||J. Quenneville (45-26-11)|
|2010-11||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks*||82||44||29||9||97||.591||0.41||0.01||3rd||Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals||J. Quenneville (44-29-9)|
|2009-10||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks*||82||52||22||8||112||.683||0.77||0.02||1st||Won Stanley Cup Finals||J. Quenneville (52-22-8)|
|2008-09||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks*||82||46||24||12||104||.634||0.60||0.01||2nd||Lost NHL Conference Finals||D. Savard (1-2-1), J. Quenneville (45-22-11)|
|2007-08||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks||82||40||34||8||88||.537||0.16||0.12||3rd||D. Savard (40-34-8)|
|2006-07||NHL||Chicago Blackhawks||82||31||42||9||71||.433||-0.52||0.17||5th||T. Yawney (7-12-2), D. Savard (24-30-7)|
After bottoming out in 2006-07. and changing coaches 4 times, they finally got the job done in 2009-2010 and again in 2012-2013. They also are in contention again this year. What about their roster however? They too have 8 players in their 30's. That's a lot. Though they do have 9 other players who are 27 or younger, including their two star players, Kane and Toews. But still a drop-off may be likely for them within 2-3 years. Although, I will say the Blackhawks draft and develop players smartly and signing free-agents isn't difficult, so they could become more stable.
So, what about the Leafs?
|2013-14||NHL||Toronto Maple Leafs||66||35||23||8||78||.591||-0.11||-0.06||2nd||R. Carlyle (35-23-8)|
|2012-13||NHL||Toronto Maple Leafs*||48||26||17||5||57||.594||0.27||0.02||3rd||Lost NHL Conference Quarter-Finals||R. Carlyle (26-17-5)|
|2011-12||NHL||Toronto Maple Leafs||82||35||37||10||80||.488||-0.38||0.02||4th||R. Wilson (29-28-7), R. Carlyle (6-9-3)|
|2010-11||NHL||Toronto Maple Leafs||82||37||34||11||85||.518||-0.41||0.00||4th||R. Wilson (37-34-11)|
|2009-10||NHL||Toronto Maple Leafs||82||30||38||14||74||.451||-0.68||-0.03||5th||R. Wilson (30-38-14)|
After bottoming out in 2009-2010, and 3 losing seasons under Wilson the Leafs finally made a playoff appearance last season. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, they should also make playoff noise this year as well. What about their roster?
The Leafs currently have just 7 players 28 years of age or older(Lupul, McClement, Gleason, Ranger, Smith, Bodie and Clarkson). All are useful players to an extent, but they are not cornerstone guys.
So here's the good news: The Leafs have 16 players on their roster aged 28 or younger. Which means their star players: Phaneuf, Kessel, JVR, Kadri, Gardiner and Reilly, can only continue to get better.
In 5 years Phaneuf will be 33, Kessel 31, Kadri 28, Kulemin 32, Gardiner 28, and Reilly 25. Bernier and Reimer will also both be 30.
What do the Leafs lack however? Problems with managing the cap wisely, and high-end prospects who can play well enough to replace aging talent.
Of course there are other factors to take into consideration. A trade to improve or hurt the club, the right FA signings, and if there are any prospects who can make a jump.
But by my estimations, I give the Leafs by 2018 to win it all with this group. I also believe the 5 year window is also transferable to other sports, most notably, the NFL.