Leafs on Their Way to Respectability

Will Toronto be able to create 1967 glory again?

With many new faces in the Leafs roster last year, it is not a wonder they got the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. With the hockey God’s finally cracking a wry smile and granting them the number one pick, how are they doing after the rebuild we also call the 2016-2107 NHL season? With a pricey front office salary (probably the largest in the league), huge franchise price tag and quoted as the league’s most expensive ticket, are the Leafs on their way to the glory land? Possibly one of the most underachieving team of the modern era with the longest NHL Stanley Cup drought, is their treasure at the end of this rainbow? Are the Cubs a sign that Toronto can do it too? Is 1967 going to happen again and will there be another NHL parade in Toronto in the foreseeable future? Let’s hope that Saint Louis will soon hold the streak for the longest drought and we can pass the baton to them before dropping it.

Most would agree it is better to rebuild and trade picks than to lose early in the playoffs? Some would even say it is better to rebuild than lose in the finals (which Toronto has not done since that faithful 1967). But the Leafs are definitely rebuilding and not tanking this NHL season and here is why. With having the most leads entering the third period this NHL season (yes, even more times than the Blackhawks or Penguins), the rebuild is well on its way and the numbers say the same.

In the recent past, the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets have all had a tare-down and rebuild. With the Coyotes having their rebuild occurring in 2007-2008, the Sabres in 2015-2016, the Devils in 2015-2016 and Oilers in 2010-2011 and here is how they fared in their first rebuilding season. Arizona went from 67 to 83 points for a 23% increase. The Sabres went from 54 to 81. All in all, these NHL teams increase in points ranged anywhere from 0 to 50 %. With the Leafs in their current first year of rebuild to date they have a 22% increase. This is dramatically higher than any other team and may be one metric why management says that Toronto is one year ahead of schedule. Possibly another interesting number would be how many wins Toronto has per management dollar. I imagine they would be at the bottom of the league but with huge ticket prices and revenue, this may be okay with all involved.

Sure there are lots of warning and caveats surrounding this. Some teams had injuries. Other teams left top picks in the minors. Other teams took a longer approach to bouncing back due to finances or free agent reasons. However, Toronto is top among our group so the Toronto management can be happy with the progress but not overly thrilled when comparing to other teams. Sure they have competed better and the team is showing better results than last year’s fire-sale version. The busts of the Toronto past are long gone and there is no need to pretend in Toronto that a win is really a win and not a loss. But knowing Toronto and how they lose in the most glorious fashion, let’s not hold our breath and all celebrate the glories of 1967. We can plan the victory parade and route if you want. But I would do it in pencil if at all. Things can change very quickly and Toronto is no different. They are also a long way from being perennial champs atop the league.

Dave Bendl from Oshawa, Ontario

The Winnipeg Jets Rebuild were not calculated in the numeric analysis