In the National Hockey League’s 1966-1967 season, history being made was assured. It would be the final season with only the Original Six teams participating, the league doubling in size the following season on its way to its now thirty-two franchises spread across the United States and Canada. The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup at the end of the season, defeating their arch rivals the Montreal Canadians four games to two.
Toronto hasn’t been to the Stanley Cup finals since.
It’s not that the Maple Leafs have been universally bad the past fifty-four years. They’ve had decent teams and star players. But this year was supposed to be the year, what with young superstud guns Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner ably abetted by the still potent John Tavares and the newly acquired savvy veteran playmaker Joe Thornton. Toronto won their division handily and looked set for a deep run into the playoffs, a legitimate contender for the Cup.
Then the playoffs started.
Things started going south when Tavares was injured in Game One in a first round matchup against those pesky Canadians. Still, Toronto seemed to have the upper hand and indeed did just that, taking a three games to one lead in the series. Just one more win and it would be off to Winnipeg, where the Jets had summarily dismissed the Edmonton Oilers in a sweep to win their series. Unfortunately for Toronto, it neglected to win that fourth game. In fact, in the three straight losses with which they ended their season they never had a lead. Ouch.
While detailed analysis of what the Maple Leafs should or shouldn’t do to bolster their roster is a matter of debate (I have my own underperforming team to worry about), it staggers the imagination that among all the teams that were in existence in the four major sports in 1967, Toronto stands alongside this minuscule Hall of Shame as a franchise who have not so much as reach the championship series or game since that year:
Cincinnati Royals (now Sacramento Kings) St. Louis Hawks (now Atlanta Hawks)
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