If ever there was a hockey team that deserved a fairy tale ending to its season, it’s the 2016-17 Toronto Maple Leafs.
I may now reside in Alberta but I’m a diehard Leafs fan and I bleed blue and white.
I’d be more than happy to tell you why the Toronto Maple Leafs deserve to be where they are – in the playoffs and fighting for the Stanley Cup which they have not won since 1967, yes, a half century ago.
Not only has this young, inexperienced team shattered expectations this season, I think it’s fair to say they’ve impressed the socks off many naysayers. The Leafs roster started the 2016-17 season with an average age of 25.7 – the second-youngest team in the National Hockey League, behind the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This year’s Leafs squad has proven that a year can make a difference.
They surged past their predicted finish, clinching a playoff spot for only the second time since the 2003-04 season, played a full schedule of 82 games and earned their way into the post-season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are celebrating a milestone in 2016-17– their centennial season. Not only did they acquire the number 1 overall pick in Auston Matthews, the Leafs also put together a team that has proven itself and their worth on the ice.
Despite their young age this team has shown they can score, they can skate — with speed and agility, and can create plays that prove their highly skilled form.
Under the leadership of head coach Mike Babcock, the Leafs jumped from last place (30th) in the NHL to 8th place and a playoff berth in less than 12 months.
That in itself is a feat to celebrate.
Veteran players like Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov and James Van Riemsdyk have all improved under Babcock’s guidance this season, while newcomers and rookie players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Connor Brown and Frederik Anderson have broken records and defied the odds while letting their actions on the ice speak for themselves.
Matthews, Marner and Nylander have formed a historic trio. Only four times in NHL history has a team had three rookies score 50 or more points for the same team in the same season. These Leafs rookies are the fifth.
It’s an exciting time to be a Leafs fan and as my team takes to the ice in their first playoff series in many years, I can proudly proclaim:
Go Leafs Go!
Kristine Jean is the reporter for the Innisfail Province.