In true damage control fashion, executives of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been desperately trying to point out the positives from this year in order to regain control of a Leaf Nation that is growing in apathy.
One of the suggested positives is the Toronto Marlies, who currently sit in second place in the AHL Western Conference with 85 points and look poised to make the playoffs.
“I believe winning is a habit. And I believe by loading that team up for success in the playoffs, that will translate into success for the Toronto Maple Leafs down the road.”
How much truth is there to that statement? Does success for an AHL affiliate mean success for the parent club?
A look at the AHL affiliates of the Stanley Cup winners from the past 20 years shows that most had their AHL affiliate in the playoffs the year before–only twice has a team won the Stanley Cup the year after their AHL team missed the playoffs.
However, it also doesn’t take a huge playoff run to provide the kids with the experience they need as nine of those AHL teams were eliminated in the first round. Only one team made the Calder Cup final.
How does this compare with the Leafs? Well, in the past 20 years, the St. John’s Maple Leafs, Toronto Roadrunners and Toronto Marlies have combined to only miss the playoffs six times.
Three of those years came after the lockout, which might be why Burke is trying to argue that farm club success translates into NHL success.
The problem is that it is a misleading argument. A team doesn’t have to have their farm team make the playoffs in order to be successful.
Instead, what matters more is how the team handles its younger players.
Nazem Kadri did not receive the time with the Leafs that he deserved this year.
Two of the four post-trade deadline call ups were burned to send Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner down and back up again in order to be eligible for the AHL playoffs instead of letting their younger kids gain more NHL experience (or to showcase them for a trade, since trades are the only way that the Leafs will clear enough cap space for next year).
These mistakes should not be happening.
There may indeed be some up and coming players in the Maple Leafs system, which is something to be excited about. There’s a draft coming up that has been described as deep where the Leafs might own one of the top three picks, that’s something else to be excited about.
However, it’s foolish to believe that farm team success concretely translates into NHL success.
It’s also wrong to try and convince fans otherwise without hard proof.
Anthony Antonacci is a freelance journalist and published author from Toronto, Ontario who has been following Toronto sports since Doug Gilmour was scoring wraparounds, Joe Carter was touching em’ all and the Raptors were just a logo shaved onto some guy’s head. He has been a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report since November 2011 and enjoys talking sports as much as he enjoys writing about them. If you’ve got something to say, be sure to leave a comment below or follow him on Twitter to join in the conversation.