It was a wild ride, this past season. My first inclination was to write out a big ol’ rant about all the pent up annoyance, mainly about how much of a dirty piece of shit Chara is.
I’m not going to lie, in a lot of ways this has been one of the least enjoyable seasons of the Toronto Maple Leafs I have ever watched, followed, or whatever you want to call it. Precisely none of that lack of enjoyment had anything to do with the Leafs players, or their play on the ice.
Instead, it was everything surrounding the Leafs this season. The media coverage, the fighting amongst fans, the stress and anxiety about the playoffs months before the playoffs ever happened, anger at the coach, anger at Dubas, anger anger anger anger. It was tiring, and it got to me as much as I tried to be positive about it.
And, I want to get back to that positive aspect. Ignoring everything around it, this was a pretty great Leafs season to watch.
How do I love thee, Maple Leafs, let me count the ways:
- Mitch Marner became a beast, realizing all his potential and thensome.
- John Tavares came better than advertised, and helped Marner realize a lot of that potential. They’ll likely be together for a long time.
- Matthews put together another great season despite injuries, and turned into a beast in the playoffs.
- Freddie had his downs, but had perhaps his most consistent year (at least it seemed that way to me) all through the playoffs.
- Morgan Rielly became a beast, being worthy of a Norris nomination even if he didn’t actually get one.
- Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson both took big steps forward this year as young, skilled wingers.
- Zach Hyman took his game to another level too, fitting in nicely with Marner and Tavares and putting up career bests in points.
- We got Jake Muzzin, who I have loved for years (mostly because of fantasy hockey but hey, love’s gotta start somewhere!) and he was so good in the playoffs he made people forget how much they disliked Nikita Zaitsev.
- Down on the farm, we had a superb season by Rasmus Sandin. He put up more points than we previously thought he was capable of, but also showcased all his talents for passing and breakouts at a professional hockey level... while being a teenager.
- Jeremy Bracco had a huge season in the AHL too, setting records on the Marlies with his playmaking.
- Timothy Liljegren improved his game too, still as a teenager for much of the year. Just hope the guy can stay healthy.
- Calle Rosen looked great and could be a useful guy in the NHL next year.
- Mac Hollowell had a silly amount of points in the OHL, and will join a Marlies’ D group already pretty stacked with young talent.
- Adam Brooks (who I not-so-secretly love) also took a step forward this year.
- Pierre Engvall showed flashes that he could maybe be a big but skilled depth centre.
- The emergence of Trevor Moore as a fast and fiesty depth winger.
- The turnaround year Tyler Ennis had.
- I’ll even give credit to the step forward Gauthier made as a player, which got to a point I did not think was possible before. All credit to the Goat, I love the guy.
- We filled our prospect cupboard some more with guys like Joseph Duszak, Justin Brazeau, and Colt Conrad. The Leafs are also rumoured to be in on some more European free agents.
And then there are the fun things about the Leafs that are off the ice. The fun and often mystifying clothing choices that have given us so much joy via Annie’s fashion recaps. The many Marner commercials that lead to hilarious shots taken at him by Kapanen. The Nutcracker performance by Matthews and Marner. All the genuine love of the Leafs that a true star and home-town boy that Tavares showed. The fans rallying around Tavares after his first game back against the Islanders. Andreas Johnsson chowing down on a hot dog at an outdoor practice. We have the Leafs players rallying around each other, and you could tell how close a lot of them are beyond just teammates.
Rielly on Gardiner: "Nobody cares what anyone says. He's a fuckin' really good player. We want him back next year, so that's that." #Leafs— Terry Koshan (@koshtorontosun) April 24, 2019
Make Rielly the captain already!
I just want to say how much I appreciate the Leafs: their development this year as individual players and as a team. It had the same result in the end this season, but the journey to me was much more exciting. They didn’t steal games to force game 7 against Boston, they had Boston on the ropes and outplayed them for much of the series. By the end of the series, you could see how gassed guys like Matthews and Tavares were, how broken they looked at the end. They gave it their all.
And the Leafs team of managers, coaches and trainers all held together as a reliable pillar around which the team has been built, and is still being built. They helped oversee and facilitate the development that led to a lot of these great things that we saw. They’re not a source of drama and stupidity like they were not that long ago. I can look around at some truly dysfunctional teams in the league and thank God the Leafs aren’t like that anymore.
I’m not going to say it was a perfect season. There were problems, flaws, and bumps along the way. And we all already know there’s going to be not so fun stories and takes shoved in our face for many months now.
But this Leafs team is still young. They’re still getting better, both individual players and the core of players coming to the team.
I’m already looking forward to the next season, to see what we can do with even better young stars, and even more young talent making its way to the team.
Here’s to 2018/19 and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thanks for the journey! It’s been a trip.
Now excuse me while I cry and take down my Auston Matthews shrine, so I can put up my new Vlad Guerrero Jr shrine.
ONTO THE LINKS
The Sharks defeated the Golden Knights in OT to take their series. The win was overshdowed by a major head injury to Joe Pavelski. The was his head whacks down on the ice here is pretty gruesome. Not shown is the huge amount of blood gushing out afterfard. The full video is here.
Pavelski incident pic.twitter.com/E5qdwXGzFG— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) April 24, 2019
Eakin was given a 5 minute major penalty and a misconduct. The Sharks then scored four power play goals in a row, turning a 3-0 game for the Knights, into a 4-3 game for the Sharks. Jonathan Marchessault was livid after the game, calling the penalty a “fucking joke.”
Call it two, OK. But a five? For something you didn’t even see? You just [called it based on] the outcome. It’s a fucking joke. It’s embarassing. - Marchessault
Have a great Wednesday Leafs fans, and as always... GO LEAFS GO FOREVER!
What was your favourite part of the 2018/19 season?
|Signing John Tavares
|Mitch Marner beast mode
|Captain Morgan’s breakout year
|Matthews’ great playoff performance
|Fashion fodder for Annie
|Looking ahead to Sandin, Liljegren, Bracco coming soon