Regardless of how the season ended for either the Maple Leafs or even for the Marlies for that matter you have to admit that it was a heck of a lot more fun being a fan for the organization this year than at any other point in recent memory; talk about the number of positive points to take away from the series, the post season and the year in general.
Taking a Bruins team that had not changed much since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 all the way to a game seven even after pundits had written them off was nothing short of phenomenal. Did the way in which they were eliminated hurt, of course…but they measured up well against one of the strongest teams in the league and should hold their collective heads high.
Phil Kessel getting that Boston monkey off his back in true playoff fashion, silently imposing his will on the entire team as he demonstrated just how much of an effective and dangerous scoring threat he could be given room even when up against on the of the league premier defensemen also bodes well for the future of the Maple Leafs should he choose to remain.
Another positive point to consider was the overall depth of the organization, especially when calling up the likes of Joe Colbourne who showed great advancement in his overall game, a mature attitude in his approach and is definitely a very real possibility to make the squad out of training camp next year.
The experience points. You cannot learn how to play playoff hockey until you have made the playoffs. The organization set and ultimately achieved that goal and given the relative youth of the Maple Leafs this is surely to pay off great dividends. The experience will definitely have a significant influence on the development of the players whom now realize that the goal is not only achievable but just what it will take to get there next season.
Dallas Eakins cannot be praised enough for continuing to keep the Toronto Marlies a competitive hockey club even after the January depth theft that occurred when they lost key elements of their goaltending (Scrivens), defensive core (Kostka, Fraser, Holzer, Gardiner) and even forwards to an extent (Aucoin, Kadri, Hamilton, Colbourne, Frattin) at various time. Even if he choose to head to an NHL gig as it appears he will, you cannot discount the affect he has had on these players during his tenure.
Let’s also not forget the scouting staff who identified real gems like Mark Fraser and even Mike Kostka who paid significant dividends this year at both levels. Kevin Marshall played well for the Marlies after coming over in a late season trade and the addition of Drew MacIntyre was one of the best stop gap measures I have seen in quite some time, hopefully he finds a home with the organization. Spencer Abbott also had a phenomenal rookie playoff campaign and one should expect to see a continued increase in his game as time goes on (think Cory Conacher). Even Morgan Reilly is already starting to make an impact and it will be exciting to watch his development next year in his first full pro year.
So there you have it, a number of positive points to take away from the season when looking back at it and where the clubs are heading in the future which is definitely in the right direction. The Maple Leafs are a still an incredibly young squad with plenty of upside ( as are the Toronto Marlies) and there is plenty of room for growth and continued experience with a set of players that can only but get better. As always, food for thought!