Stability Is Key to Future Success for the Toronto Maple Leafs

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The dubious number of first-round exits for the Toronto Maple Leafs now stands at seven since 2004. This year, it came after the best regular season in franchise history. Reaching the number six in the series comes for a variety of reasons. As a young, plucky underdog against the Washington Capitals. As a favourite against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens. Two came against hated rivals the Boston Bruins. Then, finally, the most recent against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Without seeing tangible progress, the frustration and anger from fans of the team are understandable. Many will call for changes to be made. Those changes by the organization would show the fanbase that they are unaccepting of failure. This would be a dangerous approach. The best choice for the Leafs is to be prudent and resist major upheaval within the organization.

Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Needs Key Component For Future Success

The most successful organizations in all professional sports are those that limit change and stick to their beliefs. The New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers are at the top of the list for Super Bowl victories in the National Football League. Others near the top of this list include the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Giants. The Kansas City Chiefs are a more recent example. There is one prominent feature that they all have in common: stability.

The Patriots’ unprecedented success was based on Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The six championships of the Steelers involved three different head coaches and four general managers. The Packers rarely change coaches or general managers. The glory years of the 49ers and Giants were associated with stability. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana were staples for the 49ers. Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning were the cornerstones during that team’s best years. The Cowboys haven’t tasted success since Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones couldn’t get along.

Historically championship basketball and baseball organizations also resist change. The most successful eras of the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Atlanta Braves have this trait in common.

Stability the Key to Recent Stanley Cup Winners

Look no further than the Leafs’ first-round opponent for the importance of stability in the National Hockey League. The two times defending Stanley Cup Champions, Tampa Bay, boast names that roll off the tongue because of their pedigree. John Cooper, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy to name a few. Current general manager Julien Brisebois has continued the work that former general manager Steve Yzerman started.

The Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins changed coaches frequently before winning championships. But they stuck with their core of star players and general managers. The Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks also had limited turnover during their Stanley Cup runs.

Choosing Stability Best Option for the Leafs

The Leafs could choose to shake things up to appease fans or try something new. However, change for the sake of change would weaken the team. Few of these options would make them better. General manager Kyle Dubas is improving on the job. He is also coming off the best offseason of his tenure. Head coach Sheldon Keefe has the best points percentage for a coach in team history. He continues to grow into the role. Plus, he manages his players and the Toronto market well. Any move to replace either of them would be a lateral move at best. At worst, the team takes a step back.

From a roster perspective, there are few options for major change. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are two of the top fifteen players in the league. Moving either would be a roll of the dice. It would also likely decrease the talent level on the team. John Tavares‘ contract makes him untradeable. The organization needs to hope he can hold on for another year or two before any steep decline in his performance. Trading William Nylander could be an option. However, as infuriating as his play can be, his contract is not onerous and he has skills that most lack.

Yes, it has been a frustrating time for fans of the Maple Leafs. But, remember what it was like during the Harold Ballard years, or the “waffle” era.

It has been said the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Yet, my advice to the Leafs? Be patient. Run this team back. History shows this is the way to go.

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