Toronto has been a sports city where fans have not had much to cheer about in recent memory, but this year, it looks like both the Maple Leafs and the Raptors are on the rise. Currently, both Toronto-based teams are on pace to make the playoffs in their respective leagues.
The Leafs are in third place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, as they sit one point ahead of their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. While the Leafs did make the playoffs last season, their playoff run came to an abrupt end after a historic collapse in the final period of game seven in their first round match up against the Boston Bruins. For the sake of Torontonian sports fans worldwide, a recap of this game will not be covered.
Prior to the last season’s short-lived playoff run, the Leafs had not made the playoffs since the 2003-04 NHL season. The Leafs, who have the second most Stanley Cup victories in league history with 13, only behind Montreal’s 23, have not had the honor of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup since the 1966-67 NHL season. When the Leafs last won the Cup, the NHL consisted of only the six original teams.
The Leafs will be looking to recover from last year’s disappointment as they try to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in a decade. While the Leafs have the second most championships in league history, the Toronto Raptors are tied for last in NBA championships with zero. Of course, the Raptors have only existed for two decades in the NBA, while the Leafs are approaching 100 years in the NHL.
The Raptors have made the playoffs five times in franchise history and they last made it there in the 2007-08 NBA season, where they sported a record of 41-41 and lost to the Orlando Magic in the first round. The last time both the Leafs and the Raptors made the playoffs was the 2001-02 season. The Raptors have made it to the second round of the playoffs just once in their franchise’s history. This was in 2001 when Vince Carter led the Raptors past the New York Knicks in the first round, and took them to seven games against Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.
The Raptors currently lead the NBA’s Atlantic Division and are sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference. With a record of 35-27, they have already surpassed their win total from last season. With a roster filled with young talent, the Raptors will be hoping to make some noise in the playoffs this season.
Not only do both the Leafs and the Raptors appear to be on the rise, but in this past offseason, Toronto FC made some huge acquisitions to make them more relevant in the MLS. The biggest of these moves included acquiring star Tottenham forward, Jermaine Defoe. Defoe arrived in Toronto as the fifth highest scorer in Tottenham’s history.
Much of this recent uprising in the Toronto sports is due to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s (MLSE) new commitment to winning. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of MLSE has stated that he will do all that it takes to create a winning culture in Toronto. The signing of Dave Nonis as GM of the Leafs and Masai Ujiri as GM of the Raptors is what Leiweke believes to be the first step in getting there.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently valued at a staggering $1.15 billion. They are the most valuable team in the NHL. The Toronto Raptors are worth $520 million, which ranks them as the 18th most valuable team in the NBA. The Toronto FC is valued at $121 million, which is the fifth highest in the MLS.
While neither the Leafs, Raptors, nor Toronto FC are favorites to win championships this season, there is no doubt that Toronto’s professional sports teams are on the rise.
Commentary By Eric Kummel