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Maple Leafs face questions following another early postseason exit

Maple Leafs have made the playoffs the past six seasons but then lost in the first round each timeDAN HAMILTON/USA TODAY SPORTS

Maple Leafs' ownership, following another first round playoff exit by the team, should "be asking questions" about the organization at this time, according to Steve Simmons of the TORONTO SUN. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Chair Larry Tanenbaum and his "corporate pals" should be "wondering how this hockey club, year in, year out ... comes up short at playoff time." Team President Brendan Shanahan is a "terrific guy and has brought sense and structure and values and leadership and purpose to a Maple Leafs organization in need of all those things," but in eight seasons on the job, the Leafs have never won a playoff round. NHL teams make their "money on playoff revenue," and many "budget to break even during the season and look to the playoffs to be their source of profit." The Leafs, like all teams in Canada, "struggled with empty arenas because of the pandemic and lost more money than the majority of their NHL counterparts." This was the "first time buildings were full to capacity at playoff time" since '19. A playoff run for the Leafs would have "been great for the bottom line, let alone the much-starved hockey fans of this market." Instead, it was "four games and out." This is eight seasons for Shanahan on the job, with his "hand-picked" GM Kyle Dubas and the GM’s "hand-picked" coach Sheldon Keefe. In sports, that is a "lifetime on the job" (TORONTO SUN, 5/17).

CALLS FOR ACTION: In Toronto, Kevin McGran writes there is "some thinking to be done at the top." The "very top -- ownership -- seems happy." The ratings are "good on Sportsnet and TSN, whose parent companies control 75 per cent of the team." The only way MLSE "changes direction at the management level" is if the fanbase "turns away, or becomes indifferent" (TORONTO STAR, 5/17). In Toronto, Michael Traikos writes something "has to change with the Leafs this off-season." Keefe’s job is a "lot less secure than it was before the Leafs lost in Game 7." Traikos: "You can’t fail in the first round of the playoffs for a sixth straight year and not expect heads to roll. But you also can’t make a change for the sake of change. Or change something at the risk of making things a lot worse than they are now" (TORONTO SUN, 5/17).

WHAT COULD'VE BEEN: ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said of the Maple Leafs not advancing in the playoffs, “Toronto is a more important hockey market by a million times than Tampa, Florida -- by a million! -- and Toronto did not advance again. Toronto never advances.” Wilbon noted the Lightning advanced and have won the last two Stanley Cups so the league “is not going to be unhappy but Toronto advancing would be a bigger deal.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said the Flames and Oilers, the two Canadian teams still playing, “lack the glamour of Toronto” (“PTI,” ESPN, 5/16).

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