The Toronto Maple Leafs Should Consider Tanking

2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs
QUEBEC CITY, QC - OCTOBER 18: Alexis Lafreniere #11 of the Rimouski Oceanic skates prior to his QMJHL hockey game at the Videotron Center on October 18, 2019 in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images)

The 2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs should consider tanking?

The fabled phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day” has been used to remind individuals that the short-term isn’t everything.

Yes, of course, many philosophies may preach living in the present; to forget remembering the past and stop worrying about the future. Those are all great things to practice and they very well could be the key to embarking on a fulfilling life.

On the other hand, sometimes, playing the long game does pay off, as in looking to the future, especially in the context of this piece.

The 2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs have given the hockey world more questions than answers in the past season or two. Do the Maple Leafs have a shot at winning the Cup in this shortened 2019-20 season? Yeah, but so does every other team. Can they beat its biggest foe, the Boston Bruins, in a best-of-seven series? The jury is out on that one. How can they realistically improve the team without taking from the roster? That’s a tough one, but if one thinks about it, it really isn’t that tough. The simple answer is: the Maple Leafs should consider tanking its play-in series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs should consider tanking

Tanking may go against everything that a player is taught throughout his or her own career; the game is played to be won. 

“Do or do not,” said everyone’s second favourite character Yoda. “There is no try.”

So, in other words, good luck trying to sell to a team full of guys who wish not only to win but to win it all, on intentionally tanking. 

That said, in Toronto’s case, good luck trying to tell a Leafs team that’s been to hell and back this season, that they have a chance to beat a top team in the East, like let’s say the Boston Bruins. 

Not to say that it can’t happen, the Leafs beating Boston, but from a gambler’s perspective, it’s highly unlikely.

The Maple Leafs blueline is a huge cause for concern. On paper, it’s not terrible, and if they play high octane, skilled game, the Maple Leafs blueline can be serviceable. That said, “backchecking” doesn’t seem to be in the Leafs vocabulary. 

It’s Double Jeopardy. What’s one word that’s in the Bruins’ line of Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak? That’s easy! “Alex, what is ‘domination’.” 

That is correct. 

“But what if…”

For sure, the circumstances may have changed with every team coming off a layoff caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Who knows, maybe it could play into a young team like Toronto’s favour? The Leafs could have fresher legs than its foes and that turns the tide in Toronto’s favour. Maybe the Maple Leafs are bound for glory?

Of course, I can wake up Thursday morning and be the winner of Lotto Max, but the truth is, as much I might hate it, that’ll probably never happen.  

Look at it this way: Metaphorically speaking, everyone wants to have a horse in the race. The 2019-20 playoffs are truly going to be the “test of champions” with everything teams are going to have to go through in order to compete.

Here’s the thing, even though one may have a “horse in the race”, it doesn’t mean they’ll win. 

For example, your horse is going up against Secretariat in the Belmont. 

No matter how much you tell yourself that your horse has a shot at upsetting the odds-on favourite, you know what’s going to happen. Your horse isn’t going to come even remotely close to beating the “tremendous machine” that is Secretariat. Try your luck in the next race

Take advantage of opportunities given

So, the 2019-20 Toronto Maple Leafs can’t win now… they should just tank? It’s pretty risky.

Of course, tanking is a risky business, but after the 2020 NHL Drafty Lottery established that a mystery team (one of the eight teams to lose its play-in series) will get the first overall pick. Essentially the opportunity to draft Alexis Lafreniere.

One could say a huge reward for such a small risk. Only one team can win the Stanley Cup. As mentioned before, this year will be a “Test of Champions”. No matter how those other 21 teams lost, all that will be remembered is that they lost and someone else won. 

If defeat is inevitable, why not just roll the dice, and take advantage of the opportunity to potentially get the first overall pick?

The big picture

When the Toronto Raptors decided to trade the face of their franchise DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard in the summer of 2018, the basketball world basically told Raptors president Masai Ujiri everything that could go wrong. Something, he and his front office team already thought about long before Ujiri pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trade that would help the Raptors capture its first NBA Championship.

The Raptors front office knew that this could blow up in their faces, but they also knew after years of failing to win a championship, something had to be done to take the team to that “next level”.

The Maple Leafs, as they sit, are on the cups of being a true contender. They just need one or two more pieces on its blueline to get them there. Obviously drafting Alexis Lafreniere wouldn’t fix those problems, but through cause and effect, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas would have a lot more room in which to maneuver. 

Players would become expendable. And no, it doesn’t mean to restart the “trade William Nylander for a defenceman” narrative. What it means is Dubas can feel more comfortable about trading a player like Kasperi Kapanen or a Nick Robertson, because of the immense forward depth Lafreniere would give Toronto going forward. 

If Toronto’s top-six wasn’t already scary, just imagine how dangerous the Leafs would be with the addition of Lafreniere? Now bring in a solid stay-at-home defenceman. Are you kidding me? Hands down, this hypothetical team would give Toronto its best chance at winning a Cup since 1967. 

And at the end of the day, that’s all Leaf fans want is to win the Cup.

Final thoughts

Nothing in this life is guaranteed. Absolutely, positively nothing. Everything one does is a risk. And the risk that would be taken in this scenario is no different.

Sitting idle and doing nothing isn’t going to change anything. It wouldn’t have done anything for the Raptors. Making oneself vulnerable and taking risk will. It could be for the good or for the worst. The Raptors NEEDED Kawhi Leonard in order to take “the next step” on the stairway to becoming champions. Which furthers the argument that the Maple Leafs should consider tanking.

Say, how much would it hurt to beat Columbus in five games, and then lose to Boston in seven, just to watch the Blue Jackets get the first overall pick?

That’s the question one must ask themselves when they seriously consider their reply.

Ever gamble has its risk, but the reason why the gambler chooses to bet on his horse in the race is that he knows the glory which comes with victory. He, too, also knows the agony of defeat.

That said, he’s not running against Secretariat in this race, which means anything and everything is possible in “the big picture”. In this race, the odds are in his favour. All he needs is a good break.

After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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Christian Holmes is a senior writer for Grandstand Central, as well as an editor for Last Word On Hockey. Holmesy, as he is known by his peers, works to facilitate intimate one-on-one conversations with some of the most interesting personalities in sports. Not to mention, Holmes does also have a keen eye for writing powerful and thought-provoking stories as proven by his story about his lifelong love affair with hockey being published in TSN Hockey Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie’s and sports writer Jim Lang’s new book entitled "Everyday Hockey Heroes: Inspirational Stories On and Off The Ice". If you’re looking for a good laugh or even to learn a thing or two about life, you can follow him on Twitter below.

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