Toronto Maple Leafs: Does the core deserve the vote of support?

Auston Matthews #34 and Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs take to the ice. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Auston Matthews #34 and Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs take to the ice. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

Watching the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ final zoom conference calls after a disappointing end to their season, there was nothing said to reporters that should’ve caught people off guard.

There was probably some growing anticipation among fans that either Brendan Shanahan or Kyle Dubas were going to go off on their top players for their lack of production in the playoffs. They were certainly left disappointed but no one should have been surprised by what they heard.

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Over the years, the Leafs have made it a point to defend their players when they have been faced with criticism, most notable when Dubas went to bat for Mitch Marner when the team was eliminated in the bubble. The front office understands how tough the Toronto market is on players whether it’s the media or fans.

Shanahan and Dubas acknowledged the anger and frustration the fanbase is dealing with and it shouldn’t be surprising to see the emotions lead to calls for change. Marner has been the centre of that desired call for change and you get the sense from Dubas and Shanahan that they don’t intend on shaking up the current core four of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and Marner.

While the front office won’t be able to silence the growing speculation around who stays or goes this off-season, they definitely don’t want to add fuel to the fire. But do these players deserve to get the amount of support that they have received so far?

Toronto Maple Leafs appear willing to be patient but that can only last so long

You can look at many teams who have won the Stanley Cup recently and point to the struggles they went through in the years before they finally got the job done. However, unlike those teams, many believe the bar for the Leafs at this rate is to see them get through Round 1.

Seeing how the second-round series between the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets went, it hasn’t eased the frustration Leafs fans have been dealing with. Patience only goes so far when you see a Canadiens team that was 18 points behind the Leafs not only pull off three straight wins to avoid elimination but follow it up with a sweep.

There is no doubting that Toronto was the more talented team and the return of Tavares would have provided them with a boost but they were also clearly missing an element that he alone wouldn’t have been able to provide.

We have heard about the team’s need to add “killer instinct” and at some point the determination needs to be made as to whether or not that is possible with some of the players on the team. How many chances should this core get before something has to drastically change.

This management group has to sell the MLSE board on investing in this core and at some point, you get the sense that they won’t be willing to do it if this is the result they get in return. Personal attachment to the plan is all good when there is some success to point to but if the results don’t start coming soon then you wonder whether jobs will be on the line.

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What are your thoughts on the direction the Leafs need to go in? Should they continue to invest in this core? Let us know in the comments below.