3 Reasons Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Drought Continues in 2022-23

Toronto Maple Leafs fans hear 1967 a lot, and haters may not need a new chant anytime soon. Last week I wrote 3 Reasons the Maple Leafs Will Win the Stanley Cup. For every Ying, there is a Yang; for every sunrise, there is a sunset; for every Toronto fan, there is a Montreal Canadiens fan. So yes, I need to tip the scales back into balance and bring you a trio of reasons why this team will not win hockey’s holy grail during the 2022-23 season.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leaf fans may want to get ready for more playoff disappointments. (Vince Talotta/Toronto Star)

There were more than a hundred comments on last week’s story and several more on various social media platforms. More than 90 percent of the comments were against the idea of Toronto winning it all, even with the team being a favourite. Several explanations overlapped. They will appear in this article as well.

Maple Leafs Lack Forward Depth

There’s no argument that the top six are among the NHL’s best. The issue is the fall-off after the first two lines. Auston Matthews is just one player, and while he is a superstar, he can’t do it himself. Goalies can win games with lights-out performances, but the skaters can’t in today’s NHL. So year after year, Kyle Dubas and company go looking for bargains to fill in the forwards for lines three and four. Once again, he has filled in the gaps with no-namers and nothing that resembles depth-scoring.

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Teams are aware of the drop in skill too. For all the improvement in Sheldon Keefe‘s coaching, he can’t keep the core four on the ice for 60 minutes. More than a few times, we’ve seen the opposition take advantage with quick changes to get an easier match-up with the bottom six. This is also easy to spot with the top two blueliners, who have to watch for number 34 on the ice to get to work.

Maple Leafs Defense and Goaltending is Not Elite

Thanks to the new deal that starts this season, Morgan Rielly will likely take George Armstrong’s record for most games in a Toronto uniform. He is now the highest-paid defenceman for Toronto. Rielly joins other elite blueliners with his cap hit of $7.5 million a season. While he is an outstanding defenceman, he is not Victor Hedman or Cale Makar. Besides, he doesn’t have the defensive guys around him that Hedman and Makar do.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup
Toronto lacks the elite defenseman like the Colorado Avalanche’s defenseman Cale Makar (Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov make up the new goalie duo. Murray has been a shadow of his Stanley Cup-winning days. There are red flags around Samsonov after the Washington Capitals let him walk, refusing to give him a qualifying offer. Will one of these guys step up to become the goalie Toronto has been missing since trading Tuuka Rask?

Maple Leafs Curse is Real

Is there a curse or many curses? Is it the Hillman Hex? Is it some kind of Harold Ballard deal with the devil? At this point, you must look beyond hockey and scratch your head. The Atlanta Thrashers have won as many playoff rounds as the Maple Leafs have since 2004. The St. Louis Blues went from last place to champions in 2019. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights have been in the finals. The hated Canadiens were in the finals two years ago, and the provincial rivals fell short of a finals berth in 2017. Every team has had more playoff success than Toronto in the past twenty years, or 53.

I’m sure readers will come up with more reasons. There are another 31 easy reasons to write about. Yes, 31 teams in the NHL will make it difficult for Toronto all season. A very tough Atlantic Division that will make the first two rounds of the playoffs problematic, too. It’s much easier to predict this team will not win the Cup this year. But there’s always next season – right?

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