Cherry Picking: Leafs can't win Stanley Cup because they lack toughness

Kyle CantlonNHL Editor
Let's pick some Cherry's. (Twitter/Sportsnet)
Let's pick some Cherry's. (Twitter/Sportsnet)

Ahhhh Donny boy, it’s been a minute.

During Saturday’s Leafs-Habs Hockey Night In Canada Opener, Mr. Cherry went back to his well with a truly classic take, and there is absolutely no better way to officially kick off the NHL season than that. Let’s go pickin.’

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Don’s Big Take: For as skilled and talented as the Maple Leafs are, they’ll never win the Stanley Cup because they aren’t tough enough. He also referenced the Blues and implied pretty heavily that Toronto is lacking the Canadian content to win.

Let’s give it to Don for kicking off the new seasons with an absolute classic. I expected nothing less. Cherry’s most on-brand take over his career is that toughness and Canadians win you championships. You need a lot of both to win a Stanley Cup, per Grapes, and he’s not the only one to put stock in the former.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer echoed the sentiment last season, noting that the team that survived deepest into the playoffs were the bigger, heavier teams. This seemed to be a sentiment among many “smarter” hockey people too — the idea that the ability to study one opponent, game after game, for an entire series allows you to devise a tighter defensive game plan is a valid one.

Less time, less space, less room for “softer” but skilled offensive guys to shine means the teams that thrive often have a solid mix of everything - including toughness. As a theory, honestly, it holds up in my mind. Kind of, at least. Like it’s not terrible, but still a pretty swiss cheese argument because there’s absolutely no way to quantify this and you can literally mold this argument to fit whatever narrative you need.

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I am not saying this is wrong in anyway, I’m quite certain you do need a balance and no team has ever really gone “all-in” on skill like many feel the Leafs are and have won — mostly because it’s a relatively new concept and Toronto is one of the first contending teams to structure their group this way. It might work, it probably won’t. But does toughness help solve that? What even is “toughness?”

Is this based on ability to fight? Penalty minutes? Sheer size? Hits? Durability? Playing through injuries? Like, what is toughness, dude? How can you claim a team isn’t tough enough to win when you can’t even define what toughness is?

The inability to quantify this sentiment or prove it in any meaningful way definitely casts some doubt over the theory, but the worst part of this take is that he’s most likely going to be right. The Leafs are one out of 31 teams in the NHL and the odds of winning are soooooo slim. So when the Leafs don’t win the Stanley Cup, which, odds state they won’t, Don can take this weak-ass take to the bank and claim it’s because Toronto didn’t have the grit or sandpaper when really they didn’t win because, ya know, all but one team loses every year.

I legit can’t say this take about toughness and winning is wrong, but I surely can’t say it’s right. Mostly because I have no idea how to measure this. I can assure you, however, that the whole “you need tons of Canadians to win” is dumb as hell, though.

Yeah, the teams that have won the Stanley Cup, pretty much every year, feature a lot of Canadians because over half the league is Canadian. Wild concept.

Also, as of this writing, 12 of the Maple Leafs’ 23 rostered players hail from Canada, including three of their four captains, their head coach, GM, and president. Let’s not allow actual birth certificates and passports to get in the way of a good cloud-yelling session, though.

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