Toronto Maple Leafs

Do Hockey Players Actually Play Better Hockey When They Leave Toronto?


I just read an article that stated that Anderson and Hymn, who are playing amazing with their new teams, only had to leave to Toronto to thrive. I get it. The Toronto media is brutal. In the media’s eyes, we’re either the absolute worst team in the NHL or we’re going to win the cup. There seems to be no balance at all.

I think there are several reasons for this. First, Toronto Maple Leaf Fans take their hockey seriously. When their promised success and don’t see any results – they kinda get angry. However, it’s also true that some of that anger isn’t warranted.

I take you back to the Phil Kessel years when every Toronto fan made him the reason for the Maple Leafs failed seasons. During these years, Phil Kessel scored 20 goals or more for all 6 seasons he played – Kessel wasn’t Toronto’s problem and wasn’t the reason they kept losing.

What is it with Toronto? Why do so many players struggle in this city? It’s hard to say.

It could be the pressure that players face in this franchise, but why do other players in sports have success in markets that are even worse than Toronto? I mean, it’s not like playing in Montreal is a walk in the park and they got all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

It could just be that playing in Tornoto isn’t an issue at all. In fact, it could be that the media just focus on it so much, that we actually think it’s a real story.

Check out this chart below. These are Phil Kessel’s numbers.

Taken from

Check out Kessel’s plus/minus in his last year in Toronto – a negative 34. His numbers in Pittsburgh were actually average when it comes to plus/minus with a plus-nine as his best and a negative 19 as his worst. It’s actually similar to Toronto.

It doesn’t seem to me that Kessel’s issue was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His pattern of play was the same in Toronto as it was in Pittsburgh. Though in Toronto he never got his plus/minus in the positive.

But wait! Kessel won two cups in Pittsburgh. Yep, he sure did. Yet, winning a cup isn’t an individual accomplishment, it’s about playing together as a team. Kessel was one piece in a puzzle that finished strong and won a cup.

Don’t get me wrong. Changing a team can be a good thing.

There are times a player just plays better with a change of scenery, different players that complement their play, or better defense to help with their plus/minus.

In the case of Hyman moving to the Edmonton Oilers from the Maple Leafs, I think it’s more about the style of play and the players around him that’s helping him get off to this great start. Anderson is playing great hockey too, but It’s probably the system of hockey played in Carolina compared to the offense-focused Maple Leafs.

Anderson also has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that he’s a solid NHL goalie. That can happen when your team lets you go for a goalie who’s only played 97 NHL games.

It’s true that the Toronto market can be hardcore and tough to play for, but it’s also true that the Toronto market can help players thrive.

Everyone wants to play for a team whose fanbase care.

Think about baseball for one moment. What bigger markets in sports could there be than the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees, but they seem to keep winning. They have a fanbase that isn’t afraid to give their opinion but is a great place to play baseball – they care about winning and want their team to succeed.

It should be fun to play for these types of markets.

Overall, it’s probably true that there are players that can’t play in a market where they are always in the spotlight, no matter which sport you play. Yet, others use this type of fanbase to fuel their play and end up playing their best hockey.

My advice? Chill people. It’s all going to be okay.

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