So, your Toronto Maple Leafs have qualified for the playoffs again, eh? First time since 2004. There’s a palpable excitement in Toronto as the city’s hockey heroes have finally made their way into the post-season. It’s been so long.
A Lot Has Changed
You know, back in 2004, the White House was occupied by Republican George W. Bush. Today, Democrat Barack Obama is in his second term. The Canadian government was led by Liberal Paul Martin; now Conservative Stephen Harper is Prime Minister. In 2004, Ronald Reagan died; in 2013, Margaret Thatcher died. On February 4, 2004, a little thing called Facebook launched, and today over 1 billion people are active Facebook users. The first BlackBerry smartphones were almost a year old, and Apple’s iPhone was still a couple years away in 2004. Now, desktop and laptop computer sales are declining as almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet.
Much has changed not only with the world, but also with the Leafs. No member of Toronto’s current roster was part of the organization in 2004. Few members of the management, scouting or training staff remain from 9 years ago. In fact, Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment Ltd. isn’t even under the same ownership anymore. Moreover, there are reporters who, while having been on the Maple Leafs beat for years, have never covered the team in the NHL playoffs. This is a new experience for many.
2004 Versus 2013
It’s well remembered that the 2003-04 Maple Leafs were a veteran squad of big names and all-stars. The club boasted 5 players who have since been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame (Mats Sundin, Joe Nieuwendyk, Ed Belfour, Brian Leetch and Ron Francis). In the spring of 2004, the Leaf roster already had accumulated almost 2000 NHL playoff games of experience and 9 Stanley Cup rings.
The 2013 Maple Leafs are a completely different story. The team has less than 250 NHL playoff games under its collective belt, and 17 players who suited up for the team in 2012-13 have never played in the NHL playoffs. No member of the team has won a Stanley Cup (except Randy Carlyle, as coach of Anaheim).
Under coach Pat Quinn, the Leafs qualified for the playoffs each season from 1998-99 until 2003-04, twice reaching the Conference Finals. In the season following the lockout, the Leafs finished 9th in the East with 90 points, and Quinn was let go. Since then, the team has employed two more head coaches, Paul Maurice and Ron Wilson, as well as firing John Ferguson Jr. and Brian Burke as general managers before finally reaching the playoffs.
Historically, the Leafs have played 13 playoff series against the Bruins. The Leafs hold an overall series edge of 8 wins to 5 losses, though Boston has won the last 3 matchups by a combined 12 games to 1 between 1969 and 1974. The last time the Leafs and Bruins played a playoff series, Randy Carlyle had just finished his first year of junior hockey, and Claude Julien, now head coach of the Bruins, was a 14-year-old high school kid.
It’s worth noting that the Maple Leafs have qualified for the playoffs in every season with a 48 game schedule. From 1931-32 until 1941-42, Toronto played in 8 Stanley Cup Finals, winning the championship in the springs of 1932 and 1942. In 1994-95, the Leafs under coach Pat Burns were eliminated in the Conference Quarter-Finals by the Chicago Blackhawks.