Toronto Maple Leafs: Path forward tough to see after Game 7 loss

Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs checks Ben Chiarot #8 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs checks Ben Chiarot #8 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Time and time again, we heard how this season was supposed to be different for the Toronto Maple Leafs and unfortunately, we believed it to be true.

Up 3-1 against the Montreal Canadiens, there was a mentality the Leafs needed to play with and for three-straight games, they failed to find it. With each loss including the demoralizing overtime “heartbreaks” the pressure was mounting on the team’s top players and like we’ve seen year after year, they weren’t able to answer the call.

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There has been a lot of finger-pointing in the aftermath of this loss. From the lack of production for Mitch Marner, blaming Kyle Dubas for not making the right move at the trade deadline and saying the team ran into a red-hot Carey Price, the frustration has reached an all-time high.

Seeing the Canadiens celebrate after the game twisted the knife in the worst way possible. Hopefully, the front office understands the frustration the fanbase is dealing with because year after year, this core has been defended by Dubas and in return, they haven’t justified that defence.

This was a Canadiens team that probably would not have made the playoffs under a normal season and for the second year in a row, they did what they needed to do to pull off the upset. Of course, it’s no secret that Montreal’s path to success goes as far as where Price will take them after he allowed one goal on 31 shots in Game 7.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Time for Kyle Dubas to make tough decision with team’s core

No John Tavares. No Jake Muzzin. Despite losing two valuable members of their team, the Leafs but still held the advantage in talent level in comparison to the Canadiens.

Dubas made it a point to change the construction of the team and made improvements to the areas that he needed to address. The results during the regular season showed that this Leafs team was trending in the right direction.

After winning 4-0 against Montreal in Game 4 on the road, the confidence in Leafs Nation was at an all-time high and the team could finally shed some of the past narratives. Instead, they allowed a Canadiens’ power play which was a no-show for most of the series get key goals in Games 6 and 7 while failing to get anything going offensively.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately for Leafs fans, it’s an all too familiar feeling that they don’t want to experience anymore because the amount of grief they deal with is becoming a burden. This is a fanbase that has time and time again showed up to support this team and then they was Marner go 18 games without a goal in the playoffs.

Auston Matthews only had one goal to show for a Rocket Richard Trophy year. Morgan Rielly was lauded for his defensive play in this series while William Nylander was by far the best player with five goals.

How do the Leafs proceed knowing that the current formula has failed to get the job done? Can Dubas simply say that this is a part of the process and the team is committed to the plan?

At some point, Brendan Shanahan will have to go to the MLSE board and sell them on the vision that his management team is putting together. Results speak louder than excuses and fans are tired of hearing them.

Let’s not forget that following the Leafs loss to Columbus in the qualifying series, Dubas made it a point to defend Marner

"“I don’t get the criticism of Mitch Marner one bit. I really struggle with it,” Dubas said to reporters at the time.“He’s a guy that plays his ass off every night, has got tremendous skill, tremendous intensity, plays every situation for us, makes a ton of plays. And everything he does wrong, people jump all over him about. I don’t know how or why it’s that way.”"

Does this sound like a GM who will part with a key part of his team at a time where Marner was a no-show once again when the Leafs needed him? At some point, Dubas needs to realize that while it’s admirable to stand up for your players, they need to reciprocate the support because it can cost him his job.

Watching the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins thrive with the play of their star players should strike a nerve. The Leafs are paying a lot of money for players who have failed to get out of the first round the past five seasons.

If this doesn’t signal that change should be explored, this Leafs team will likely find themselves living this Groundhog Day scenario over and over again.

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What are your thoughts after the Game 7 loss to the Canadiens? Where do the Leafs go from here? Let us know in the comments below.