Toronto Maple Leafs: Yes, John Tavares Is Actually A Leaf

TORONTO, ON - JULY 1: The jersey of John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs, hangs in the Toronto Maple Leafs' dressing room, after Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, at the Scotiabank Arena on July 1, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JULY 1: The jersey of John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs, hangs in the Toronto Maple Leafs' dressing room, after Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, at the Scotiabank Arena on July 1, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images) /

A week and a half after John Tavares shocked the hockey world by signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, fans are still in shock.

I am not gonna lie, I am a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, have been since I was a kid. As a 20-year-old, I only remember the last three or four seasons of Sundin in Toronto. After him, the Leafs never really had a bona fide number center.

There was Matt Stajan and Mikhail Grabovski. Then it was Tyler Bozak until the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Times were rough. Fans in my generation had no recollection of true stardom donning the blue and white.

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Our dominant passion was one of envy instead of pride while witnessing greatness on seemingly every team but our own.  With the hiring of Brendan Shanahan, it was almost as if it ushered in an era that no one would have anticipated.

The tide started to turn in Toronto. Shanahan brought with him good fortunes that landed the Maple Leafs the chance to select the first overall pick in over 30 years and only the second time in our history.

What did they do you ask?  At the time, superstars had zero interest in venturing to a team that lacked identity and hope. Our first line center was undrafted and our second line center was Nazem Kadri. That is when the Leafs drafted Auston Matthews.

Unknown Territory

For the first time in almost a decade, the Leafs had a first line center. For me, it is almost impossible to imagine a world with Toronto having as talented a squad as they are now. I still have trouble seeing how good this team is because, for most of my life, the Leafs have been a joke.

The playoffs were new to me during the 2012-13 season. My earliest memories of the Leafs are Mats Sundin’s 500th goal and the New York Islanders clinching a playoff spot in their final game against a strong Devils squad who clearly threw the game to avoid the Leafs, resulting in them missing the postseason.

I didn’t know what it felt like to cheer for my favorite team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs until 2013. Your heart racing every second of the game, not being able to look away for even a millisecond. So having a team that is able to make the playoffs now and be one of the best teams in the NHL is a new thing for me. Having one top line center is unknown territory. Well, at least it was until another one joined the team.

Canada Day Weekend

My family and I went to the cottage to celebrate Canada’s Day like we do every year. Friday and Saturday were really calm,  just relaxing and fooling around with each other. I mean there’s 18 of us under one roof for a weekend, so it’s still kind of chaotic no matter what.

Saturday night, we were just sitting around watching TV and were on our phones looking for any free agency news. 10:00 p.m. strolls by and there’s news of James Van Riemsdyk most likely going to the Philadelphia Flyers, but still no news on John Tavares. 11:00, still nothing. Pretty sure I broke twitter that night, along with my thumbs, my poor thumbs.

The closer it got to midnight, the more likely it was that Tavares was not going to re-sign with the Islanders. Midnight comes and goes and he still did not sign.

That is it, he is a free agent now. Obviously, as a Leafs fan, I tried not to get my hopes up cause usually good players do not sign here, but this time it was different. As soon as it was midnight, I knew he was coming, Tavares was going to be a Toronto Maple Leafs player.

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July 1, 2018

Sunday morning, the family was watching soccer. I was frantically looking through Twitter trying to find any news about what was going on with Tavares. Then at 12:40 p.m. I see a tweet from Arthur Staple stating that the Islanders were out of the running for Tavares.

The family wanted to go to the beach so we left before Tavares’ decision was made public. As soon as we got into the car all I hear from my brother is “The Leafs got Tavares!” We got out of the car (still in the driveway) and ran to our uncle’s car and broke the news to him/ I called my cousin who left two minutes earlier and told him what just happened. Unprecedented, raw and unfettered mayhem ensued.

John Tavares is a Toronto Maple Leafs Player!

It still does not feel real. A superstar decided to come to Toronto in his prime, wow! He is ours, he is a Leaf! In two years, I went from not knowing what a first line centre in Toronto looks like to having two of them on an already offensively stacked team.

It has never felt better to be a Leafs fan. All the pain and suffering Shanahan and Mike Babcock were talking about was not for Leafs fans, it was for the rest of the league. Despite their lack of a true number one defenceman, this team is set to win a Stanley Cup, their first in over 50 years. This is the time to be a Leafs fan, this is the time to break the curse.

It Is Happening!

Despite their abysmal backend, the Leafs have the deepest offensive core in the NHL. Kadri could be a first line center on some teams, he is our third line centre. Sure the Leafs lost JVR, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov in order to get Tavares.

But seriously, it’s Tavares! The Leafs have the best 1-2-3 punch in the NHL, hands down. Better than the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and even the Tampa Bay Lightning. No team will be able to roll out a more skilled and speedy four lines as Toronto can. From Matthews and Tavares to Andreas Johnsson and Connor Brown, this team is filled with skill and intensity.

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Not to mention, the core is still young, they will be able to compete for Tavares’s entire seven-year contract. This is it, it is finally going to happen, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be Stanley Cup champions in the near future. Be ready, plan that so often mentioned and ridiculed parade route. It’s happening, many many times.  As Lebron James once said “Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, nope.”