Why the Toronto Raptors succeed but the Toronto Maple Leafs struggle

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

Roster Composition

The Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the best rosters on paper. They are incredibly talented and have some of the best players on the planet in blue and white. The team has stars like Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, Frederik Andersen, and Mitch Marner. There may not be another team in the NHL with as many big names.

The Raptors may be the defending champions, but they lack superstars. Pascal Siakam has developed to that level, but beyond him, the team consists of a number of very good players, not elite-level talent. The Raptors have found success in spite of this.

The Dinos’ players have managed to use their own individual strengths to deliver through teamwork. Nurse has tried multiple variations on his rotation with the most recent iteration featuring Norman Powell in the starting lineup. The players pick each other up on the court creating a full team effort.

The Leafs have a dressing room full of extraordinarily talented players, but unlike the Raptors, many of the Leafs players have similar styles of play. This means that important elements of team play, grit, and toughness, are clear omissions from their style. Thanks to the physical nature of the game, pugnacity is a valued trait, which also happens to be one that’s difficult to locate on the current Leafs.

Ujiri and Webster added players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis, and Matt Thomas. They were never expected to be replacements for Kawhi Leonard or even asked to make big waves, but they are nice complementary pieces to the players already at Nurse’s disposal. Luckily for the Raptors, their executives know how to build a team the right way.

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The good news for the Maple Leafs is that with their new coach, they have a chance to explore new lineups and may even be able to mix and match talent in a similar way that works for the Raptors. Hopefully, they can start winning more games and learn from the Raptors winning ways.