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SAD NEWS: Auston Mathew is out for 5month due to brutal injury involvement

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I want to explore the aftermath of Sheldon Keefe’s firing and its ironic implications. Does Keefe’s dismissal align with the circumstances as we revisit the playoffs and examine the team’s playoff exit?

Additionally, I’ll shift focus to goaltender Ilya Samsonov, whose future with the Maple Leafs hangs in the balance. Like Keefe, Samsonov’s tenure with the team might end. It prompts me to question whether it’s the right decision. In the NHL, decisions often appear ironic in light of alternative possibilities, and I’ll explore the complexities of these choices.

Item One: Don’t Blame Ilya Samsonov for the Playoff Series Loss

Reflecting on the Maple Leafs’ first-round loss to the Boston Bruins, there’s a tendency to point fingers at poor goaltending by Ilya Samsonov. However, a more in-depth and logical analysis reveals that goaltending wasn’t the primary issue plaguing the team. Instead, the glaring problem lay in their lack of offence, particularly on the power play. Failing to capitalize on man-advantage opportunities proved detrimental in the series.

Despite fielding a roster loaded with offensive talent, including stars like Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander, the Maple Leafs only converted on 1 of 21 power play chances, sporting a paltry 4.8% success rate – the worst among playoff teams. Moreover, their offensive struggles extended beyond the power play. The team managed just 12 goals in seven games against the Bruins, averaging less than two per game.

This offensive stagnation and Boston’s staunch defensive play ultimately proved insurmountable for the Maple Leafs. While Samsonov has faced criticism, it’s clear that Toronto’s inability to produce consistent offence was the primary factor in their playoff disappointment.

Item Two: Why Ilya Samsonov Should Be the Maple Leafs’ Goalie for the Future

Speaking of Samsonov, the Maple Leafs seem at a crossroads in their goaltending situation. Rumours are spinning that the team is after experienced goaltending. However, at the same time, there’s a thin market for reliable netminders. Logically speaking, Samsonov is one of the strongest candidates in the field of free agents. The knee-jerk reaction is that the goalie grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Yet, why wouldn’t the team want the best candidate to stand in the crease for the foreseeable future?

Despite his ups and downs over the past season, several factors make a strong case for offering Samsonov a multiple-year contract that aligns with his potential and the team’s needs. From what I have heard captain John Tavares say, the team loves the guy. I also can’t believe that Samsonov is not the kind of person – from listening to his exit interviews – who will squeeze the team for salary. Unlike a player like Mitch Marner, who seldom admits he needs to improve, Samsonov stated that he had to improve. I can see a situation where Samsonov gives the team a team-friendly deal.

There are several reasons why Samsonov should be the team’s choice. First, the scarcity in the goalie market underscores the importance of signing a netminder with a potential upside like Samsonov. True, Samsonov has been up and down. However, his up is really good. With limited options, investing in the young Russian could provide the stability the Maple Leafs desperately need between the pipes. Samsonov’s youth and room for growth make him an attractive long-term investment, positioning him as a cornerstone of the team’s future success.

Moreover, Samsonov has shown that he’s a fighter. He wants to do well. He’s been resilient amidst adversity, which could be part of his potential for development. Given his close work with goaltending coach Curtis Sanford and his strong commitment to improvement, Samsonov has shown a dedication to honing his craft. That bodes well for his future growth. His emotional investment in the game and attachment to the Maple Leafs organization further solidify the belief that he’s a goalie ready to embrace the challenges of playing on this team.

Just yesterday, another THW post by my colleague Rupert McDonald, “Maple Leafs Made a Mistake Letting Frederik Andersen Go,” suggested that sometimes the team loses a goalie they’d like back. Is Samsonov that kind of goalie?

Ultimately, it seems possible to offer Samsonov a three-year contract that provides the stability he desires and aligns with the Maple Leafs’ financial concerns and long-term goals. Despite this season’s shortcomings in his play, he has potential, and the thin goalie market could make him a valuable asset. With prudent negotiation, the Maple Leafs can secure a talented goalie ready to rise to the occasion and lead the team to new heights in the coming seasons.

Item Three: The Irony of Sheldon Keefe’s Firing: One Goal Away

As the dust settles on Keefe’s dismissal, there’s an irony in the outcome. Just one more goal in the decisive seventh game against the Bruins and Keefe could have been hailed a hero, leading his team to a second first-round victory and a chance to challenge the Florida Panthers. But alas, fate had a different plan, and Keefe finds himself without a job.

Ironically, amidst the scrutiny of Keefe’s coaching tenure, the context of injuries to key players like Nylander and Matthews is often overlooked. Nylander’s absence for the first three games of the series and Matthews playing at less than full speed due to injury undoubtedly impacted the team’s performance. Additionally, questions linger about Marner’s health, given his high ankle sprain towards the end of the season.

Despite these challenges, the Maple Leafs gave a valiant effort against the Bruins, playing them tough throughout the series. This reminds me of the unpredictable nature of NHL hockey, where a single bounce of the frozen, hard-rubber puck can change the course of a game. In this case, it cost Keefe his job.

The Road Ahead for the Maple Leafs

As the Maple Leafs navigate the aftermath of Keefe’s departure, the looming question is: What comes next? The search for a new coach brings uncertainties, with the attraction of Stanley Cup success tempting the franchise to seek out names like Craig Berube, who led the St. Louis Blues to the Cup in 2019. However, history has shown that past success doesn’t always translate to future triumphs.

While a previous Stanley Cup win might dazzle fans and instill hope, it’s no guarantee. Look at how unsuccessful Berube has been since his win. The decision to hire a new coach must be grounded in logic rather than optics, focusing on what will benefit the team’s long-term prospects. As the Maple Leafs weigh their options, fans have to hope the organization’s choice prioritizes substance over spectacle. If it does not, the stage will be set for a future that could go even further downhill in a hurry.

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