For all of the glamour and offensive production that the Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyed as they cruised through the 2020-21 NHL Regular season, they came up dry when it mattered most.
Not only did they blow a 3-1 series lead against their historic Original 6 rival Montreal Canadiens, but they went out in Game 7 last night on home ice without so much as a whimper. But on the rare occasions that their pricey offensive attack did manage to create chances, a human brick wall by the name of Carey Price was there to deny them.
“In those last few games, Price was in the heads of those Leafs shooters,’’ said one unnamed NHL executive. “They were passing up some shots. He got to them. But that’s what he does when he’s playing like that.’’
The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun received feedback from a number of unnamed NHL executives, who each offered their own take on how they'd fix the tremendous problem that is the Maple Leafs. Take a look at a few examples below.
Team executive No. 1: "It’s a surprise on the one hand. They are a “better” team than Montreal but that’s where it gets interesting......I think the bigger thing is that players themselves become more desperate to win and they do things that they aren’t willing to do over the course of an 82-game season. And that’s why the game changes. Players who aren’t interested/willing to battle hard suddenly dig in more and that nullifies the pure offensive part of the game."
Team executive No. 2: "Not a very good division. I think that probably inflated expectations. I get it in that market. It’s not easy. The 2020-21 Maple Leafs shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of the past, a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004. Now I get it, their current core has had some collapses, to put it lightly.
It reminds me of when San Jose lost after being up 3-0 on L.A. and people were carving them."
Team executive No. 3: "Trade one of the big pieces up front for D/G help. All offense hasn’t worked.
I don’t think Kyle or Sheldon (Keefe) should lose their jobs. But I do think someone has to tell them that the plan hasn’t worked. You got to change things. Trade one of those (big salary) guys."