For the 5th straight time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to move out of the opening round of competition. The latest disappointment came in the form of a 3-1 loss to the rival Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 of their Round 1 North Division playoff series - and of course, that came on the heels of blowing a 3-1 series advantage.
A new season is upon us now - and the Leafs know that they aren't able to hide from their noted shortcomings.
“We're not going to get distracted by redeeming ourselves from the past,” GM Kyle Dubas told reporters. "We only control what we do today and every day we’re moving forward. I don't think we can hide from [our failings] and run from it. I just think that we have to do everything we can as an organization to be ready when those [big] moments come again and [make sure] we're as prepared as possible. I have full faith in everybody in that room. But we can't allow our focus to get distracted on the long run.”
Of course, Toronto's latest playoff collapse was a rather sobering statistical reality that they have yet to win a playoff series since the invention of YouTube. The last time they enjoyed playoff success? The rocking Game 7 victory over the Ottawa Senators at the then-named Air Canada Centre in 2004 that saw Sens goaltender Patrick Lalime do his best Swiss cheese impression. It's been over half a century since the Leafs last tasted glory, but don't expect them to be carrying around that burden like a giant piano.
“We don't carry that burden of 54 years [since the last Stanley Cup] with us. Most of the people in that [dressing] room weren't alive then, so I don't think that resonates with them. I think what I've learned about this group in the last three and a half months is that they care tremendously about – rather than proving all of that [negative] stuff wrong – they care about proving themselves right. And I think that's the key to anything is that there's a number of teams all throughout sports that provide a great number of examples of overcoming things and if you go through and study them all, it's when that [battle] becomes personal and there's a deep believe in them internally [that things turn around]."
"That's what I've seen from this group in the last few months, which makes me excited and optimistic.”