Locked on Leafs: halfway home

The Toronto Maple Leafs are halfway through the 2023/2024 NHL season and, as always, the middle mark of the season has brought much controversy, concern, and plenty of questions. 

NHL All-Star and Leafs point leader, William Nylander, has finally signed his much-discussed contract extension. For the next eight seasons, Nylander will make $11.5 million a year, the largest contract ever signed by the Leafs. When Nylander’s extension was announced, Leafs General Manager Brad Treliving quoted the famous proverb, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This emphasizes that, now that Nylander has been given a large contract, he needs to continue to perform at this high level and meet the expectations of fans and management. In the following four games, Nylander scored no points and did not seem to be the same effective player the Leafs had signed. However, Nylander seems to have picked up his game as of late, starting with a great assist to teammate and fellow NHL All-Star Mitch Marner in a game against the Calgary Flames.  

Nylander’s center and captain for the Leafs, John Tavares, has experienced a string of bad luck recently. Tavares’s play has seen a dip, as he holds the league’s worst expected goals percentage – a stat that tracks how many goals a player is expected to produce in future games. While Tavares’s recent failure to score points at the expected high level is not a good situation, Leaf fans hope the predictive stat is soon proven wrong and that Tavares is just in the middle of a string of bad luck. 

The Leafs are infamous for blowing leads in the third period. This month, the Leafs blew a multi-goal lead in four straight games, a nasty habit that the Leafs need to drop if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs and contending for the Stanley Cup. These recent trends have caused many fans to question whether Head Coach Sheldon Keefe is in the hot seat. Many claim that the esteemed coach should be fired and a new coach with a fresh mindset should be brought in. While Keefe has not seen the success of his team lately, his two-year contract extension begins next year. Whether Keefe will continue to coach the Leafs in the coming years remains to be seen.

On a positive note, the NHL All-Star weekend is in Toronto this year and four Maple Leafs have been selected to participate in this year’s festivities. Auston Matthews was one of the first players selected, while Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Morgan Rielly were voted in by fans. It will be exciting to see how these players surprise fans and show off their skill, especially Nylander and Rielly, who are first-time All-Stars this year.

With the NHL All-Star Weekend and the rest of the NHL season looming, the Leafs need to find consistency and winning habits to put themselves in the best position to make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup.

Sports & Health Editor (Volume 50); Locked on Leafs Columnist (Volume 48 & 49) — Omar is in his final year at UTM, working towards completing a major in CCIT and double minors in Political Science and Anthropology. Omar loves to keep up with various sports teams, his favourite being the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he isn’t stressing over exams or the Leafs, you can find him watching movies, looking at shoes he can only hope to afford, and trying his best to avoid parking tickets on campus.


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