The Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the most passionate fanbases in the NHL. Leafs Nation is loyal, committed and admittedly crazy about the storied franchise. While this passion began many moons ago when the team was winning Stanley Cups on the regular, recently, it’s been a tough go for fans whose team hasn’t won a playoff series in almost two decades. Their loyalty has been tested, and Leafs Nation wants results. With all the questions surrounding the team, this summer will be a wild one as a stressed-out fanbase is sitting on pins and needles in wait.
Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft Weighing Fans
The Maple Leafs are set to lose some talent to the Kraken and the anticipation is brewing. Will Travis Dermott or Justin Holl be missing from their defence next season? What about Alexander Kerfoot departing for Seattle and leaving a gaping hole at center on the third line?
Every team outside of the Vegas Golden Knights will lose a talented player to the Kraken, so though it sucks, Leafs Nation has accepted that fact. It will be the moves that follow that really cement the direction of the team, and it’s that unknown that is stressing out fans.
Core Piece Could Leave in Major Summer Shakeup
There have been several reports that the Maple Leafs are considering moving a key piece. Hockey insider Elliotte Friedman has even said that management will canvas the entire league for the best available player.
Losing a favourite player is stressful. There’s nothing worse than buying a jersey and watching that player leave to another team. While fan-favourites like John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner appear safe for the moment, there’s a chance that William Nylander or Morgan Rielly will be traded – the latter is already surfacing in offseason trade rumours. Both players have been Maple Leafs for a long time. Leafs Nation has always loved Rielly, and they have a growing admiration for Nylander after his latest performance in the postseason. Losing either player would be a gut punch to the fanbase.
No Fan Interest in Aging Veteran Experiment
Earlier this week, I posted an article about Tyler Bozak being a candidate for a reunion, and from the tongue lashing I received, fans have no interest in heading down the veteran road anymore. The experiment with Joe Thornton last season has left a sour taste in their mouths. While I think Bozak is a viable and cheap option for the third-line center spot, the consensus seemed to be that that ship has sailed.
The resentment stems from the team’s history of adding veteran players at the wrong time. Older fans remember management bringing in Brian Leetch and Ron Francis at the tail-end of their decorated careers. Throw in other ageing players like Owen Nolan, Eric Lindros, and Jason Allison, and it’s been tough sledding for Leafs Nation. Most recently, Jason “Vintage” Spezza won some hearts over, but it seems there’s only room to like one 35-plus player on the Maple Leafs.
Zach Hyman Stress
This month is particularly stressful for Leafs Nation, with the expansion draft scheduled for July 21, followed by the opening of free agency on July 28. While we haven’t heard much from general manager Kyle Dubas or anyone in Hyman’s camp, by all accounts, the two sides are far apart in contract talks. Hyman has become a fan favourite because of his work ethic and ability to muck it up in the dirty areas. Matthews and Marner love playing alongside him, and losing him for nothing would be a huge blow to the franchise.
Some consider Hyman to be Toronto’s most important player because of his impact on every shift. While Matthews’ scoring ability takes the cake for me, I understand why fans respect Hyman so much. Dubas does not have a ton of money to spend this summer, so having the 29-year-old winger take a hometown discount to stay would go a long way to easing some anxiety. He would also rocket to the top of the fan-favourite list if he decided to leave some money on the table for a chance to win with the Maple Leafs.
Canadiens Winning the Stanley Cup Would Spell Disaster
This brings us to the current Stanley Cup Final and Leafs Nation being stressed out over the Montreal Canadiens. While they don’t seem to be headed for victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, even the possibility has been wearing on fans. Toronto folded like a cheap suit against the Habs and the rivalry would become even more one-sided if the Canadiens pulled off a miracle comeback.
Being a fan of the Maple Leafs is no easy task, and if you are part of Leafs Nation, you’re enduring some stressful times at the moment. The organization is at a crossroads, and management has some major decisions to make in the coming weeks. This unknown has the fanbase as anxious as ever and while it’s nice to remain positive and say everything is going to be OK, as we all know with this franchise, it’s never that easy.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can find Seney also contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween