Will the Leafs Laugh Last This Season



Sure, they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have still managed to hold their place as one of the top teams in the National Hockey League (NHL) while remaining a beacon of hope, inspiration, and passion for their doting and unwavering fan base. Of course, every city roots for the home team. But, in the case of the Leafs, that unwavering dedication is on an entirely different level. Toronto, and Canada by extension, is the hockey capital of the world, and has been for the better part of a century. Torontonians by their very nature are obsessive when it comes to hockey scores, and over the past half-century, they’ve largely been disappointing ones, at least when it comes to the playoffs. While the Leafs have often been skilled enough to fight their way into playoff contention, it’s been years – decades, actually – since they’ve gotten past the first round. This year just might be different.

This February, the Leafs acquired superstar Ryan O’Reilly from the St. Louis Blues in addition to skilled centerman Noel Acciari. In one of his first games as a Leaf, O’Reilly scored a hat trick (three goals in one game) against the Buffalo Sabres and assisted another team member’s goal, leading them to a decisive 6-3 win. His strong showing in subsequent games affirmed everything fans were hoping for in acquiring him. Currently ranked fifth in the league of 32 teams, the addition of players like O’Reilly to the Leafs make them a realistic contender for the 2022-2023 Stanley Cup. The one issue? Winning the Stanley Cup requires winning four rounds of playoffs, and as mentioned, the Leafs have been rather cursed over the years in the postseason. A potential precursor to this curse could be O’Reilly’s latest injury shortly after joining the Leafs.

As auspicious as O’Reilly’s first games were, a slapshot from fellow teammate Auston Matthews inadvertently resulted in a broken finger, hand surgery, and four weeks of recovery time on the sidelines for O’Reilly. It’s projected that he will be back for the playoffs, but even still, he’ll be missing at least 10 games in the final weeks of the regular season. In other words, the latest rollercoaster has not assuaged those long-term anxieties that Leafs fans have grown accustomed to over the last half century and change.

Anything can happen in professional hockey, especially in the playoffs. Players get injured, top-rated teams drop out in the first round, unexpected teams make it to the finals, and diehard fans are forced to say “there’s always next year.” Though there’s no way to know right now, Leafs fans are certainly hoping this playoff season won’t mark the 56th year without a Stanley Cup.