By Matt Paul
December 30, 2018
No, not because their arena is right down the road in downtown Toronto, the 2018-2019 version of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a very special group of players. The making of a dynasty is in year two of many to come. Now wait, you may say, they have not won the Stanley Cup. It is only a matter of time.
Here is why. They don’t hit. They don’t take penalties. They win face-offs and if you do get possession a big save is not too far away. It is important to note that the NHL is changing and the heavy hitting penalty laden line-ups do not seem to hold up in the new NHL. Hockey is being played by young, fast, well trained athletic players who increasingly live by a mantra not seen in the bygone years.
The Leafs have assembled a bunch of players who buy in to this new philosophy and subscribe to a competitive approach that while there is speed and tenacity in pursuit, lacks unbridled, unhinged physical aggression. The intimidation of the Leafs team comes from the speed through the neutral zone, passing prowess of players and the high percentage shooting of their stars like John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
With the return of Michael Nylander the lines one through three are nearly indistinguishable from a threat to score presenting a one-two punch on each to varying degrees. A fourth line featuring Par Lindholm and any one of Gauthier or Moore is a significant drop off offensively however not enough to ignore completely as evidence from the occasional goal for.
I said earlier that this is year two of a dynasty of historic proportions when you look at the various era’s in professional hockey. The Leafs represent the cutting edge of where the game is going and time will tell if the course we stay the same and if the Stanley Cup will have new names on it for years to come.