It was a frustratingly familiar feeling for Maple Leafs fans on Saturday night. Leafs Nation watched helplessly as David Pastrnak ended their season in overtime. The Maple Leafs, written off after a dreadful game four, won twice without superstar Auston Matthews only to lose their seventh consecutive winner-takes-all game. This was their fourth game-seven loss to the rival Bruins in just over a decade. Despite their series victory against Tampa in 2023, the Maple Leafs still haven’t learned how to win the biggest games.

As good as beating the Bruins would have felt, the Maple Leafs were unlikely to overcome the Panthers in round two. The truth is, I was wrong to call the 2023-2024 Maple Leafs a Stanley Cup contender. After yet another Maple Leafs playoff disappointment, let’s analyze where do the Maple Leafs go from here.

End of the Shanaplan?

Brendan Shanahan can no longer avoid taking his share of criticism for the Leafs’ constant letdowns. As the president, Shanny’s fingerprints are all over this team. He made a questionable decision to let Kyle Dubas walk last offseason and the Maple Leafs suffered as a result. With Brad Treliving just one year into his tenure as General Manager, it’s Shanahan on the hot seat.

Where Do The Maple Leafs Go From Here

Despite the constant playoff failures, Shanahan has allowed (if not encouraged) his General Managers to continuously count on a flawed and fragile core. There was plenty of speculation that this year’s Maple Leafs team was “built different”. They were supposedly more suited for postseason hockey. Yet they failed for the same reasons as they always do. Their stars were not good enough. They had barely any depth scoring. Their special teams were horrible. Their goaltender allowed untimely, poor goals.

Yes, Dubas and Treliving could have done more to help the “core four” out, however, the failure ultimately comes down to a team that has misallocated tens of millions of dollars of cap money to players who don’t excel in high-pressure situations. It’s never been more clear the Maple Leafs need change, and it starts at the top.

Coaching Change

While Shanahan is heading out the door, the Maple Leafs would be wise to send their entire coaching staff with him. Time is up for Sheldon Keefe and his staff after another first-round exit. In Keefe’s three-game sevens as Head Coach the Leafs have scored three goals. Columbus also shut them out in the deciding game of their play-in series in Keefe’s first year as coach. Keefe fails to prepare his team for the biggest moments, and it’s evident in their inconsistent and tentative play. Even in the regular season, Keefe can’t get consistent performances out of his group.

Where Do The Maple Leafs Go From Here

Toronto’s aforementioned, abysmal special teams performance is enough to send Keefe’s assistant coaches packing alongside him. Even if the special teams weren’t downright embarrassing, Guy Boucher, Mike Van Ryn and Dean Chynoweth aren’t fit to lead this Maple Leafs team, especially with Craig Berube and possibly Rod Brind-Amour available.

Editor’s Note: With the firing of Sheldon Keefe this morning, it really will put a lot of pressure on the team to perform. Shanahan may be on the hot seat as Keefe was his and Dubas’s guy. Will be interesting to see what happens on the coaching front for the Leafs.

Core Four No More?

After another postseason where Toronto’s four highly-paid forwards failed to dominate, it’s time to break up the “Core Four”. Auston Matthews and William Nylander each had one fantastic game and combined on a rare game seven goal for the Maple Leafs. Otherwise, they were quiet partially due to health issues. Fresh off fantastic seasons and rich contract extensions, those two aren’t going anywhere.

John Tavares mustered only two points in seven games, although he did make the key play to set up Matthew Knies’ game-five overtime winner. With Tavares entering the seventh year of his contract next season, regression is expected. Tavares would also likely be willing to take a significant pay cut after his contract ends to stay in Toronto. Even if that doesn’t work out, the Leafs’ captain no longer holds the type of value that makes him an attractive trade chip. This makes Mitch Marner the most obvious candidate to be traded.

Is it time to Trade Mitch Marner?

Marner is an elite playmaker, who has flirted with the 100-point mark in multiple seasons. Unfortunately, Marner hasn’t been able to thrive in the playoffs. His playoff stats aren’t overly ugly, but he hasn’t been able to come up with a signature moment in the Leafs’ biggest games. In five career games sevens, Marner is -5 with just two assists. A questionable effort on David Pastrnak before the overtime goal only added to the noise surrounding Marner’s future as a Maple Leaf.

Where Do The Maple Leafs Go From Here

It should be noted Marner controls his future, due to a no-movement clause in his contract. Marner has already expressed his desire to stay in Toronto, but with a tricky contract negotiation looming the Maple Leafs must explore Marner’s trade market. They will have to work out a trade and then ask — or try to convince — Marner to accept a trade away from his hometown team. If that doesn’t work, the Leafs may be stuck with the core four.

Even if Marner does accept a trade, it won’t be simple. It’s possible the Leafs would try to turn Marner and his salary into multiple players. A two-way forward, particularly a center and a two-way puck-moving defenceman should be at the top of the Leafs’ wishlist. Whether they can work that out, and improve the team while losing a player of Marner’s calibre is certainly a challenge.

Quick Hits


Joseph Woll’s inability to play game seven was a gut punch for the Maple Leafs. Woll was spectacular in games five and six, it would have been interesting to see if he could have given the Leafs the game-seven goaltending performance that they’ve needed for several years. Woll is the goaltender of the future for the Maple Leafs, but health is a concern. Toronto needs to find a goalie capable of shouldering the load in case his injury troubles continue.

Depth Scoring

The Maple Leafs got one unimportant goal from their bottom six in seven games. Toronto’s defence also added just one goal, despite having several chances. The Leafs must find a way to add some depth players who can score in the playoffs. With 0 playoff goals as a Maple Leaf, Calle Jarnkrok could be a prime candidate to be moved. On the blue line, the Leafs’ reliance on big, physical defencemen helped them limit Boston’s offence but hurt their own. After a fantastic run in last year’s playoffs, Morgan Rielly struggled to create offence. Acquiring another defenceman who can move the puck should be a priority too.

Free Agents

Max Domi, Ilya Lyubushkin, and Tyler Bertuzzi are the top players the Leafs must consider resigning. RFAs Timothy Liljegren, Nick Robertson, and Connor Dewar should be back in the mix unless they are included in an offseason trade. Defencemen TJ Brodie, Joel Edmundson, and Mark Giordano are unlikely to return. Giordano will likely call it a career after losing his spot in Toronto’s lineup down the stretch. Ilya Samsonov could be brought back into the fold too, but the Leafs must be wary about paying the inconsistent netminder starter-level money on his next contract.

Time will tell where do the Maple Leafs go from here but changes are needed. Make sure to follow Area 51 Sportsnetwork for all of your offseason news about the Toronto Maple Leafs.