Will the Raptors win a championship before the Maple Leafs?

October 18, 2016

The Toronto Raptors

By Wasif Husain
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Toronto Maple Leafs

By Elias Blahacek
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The Toronto Raptors

It’s a great time to be a Toronto sports fan. The Maple Leafs look rejuvenated while the Blue Jays are making another deep run in the playoffs. However, the Toronto Raptors are the team some people tend to forget. The Raptors have not only developed one of the best home atmospheres in the NBA, but are the Toronto team closest to winning a league title.

Last May marked the end of one of the greatest Toronto sports playoff runs in modern history. After two series victories and two wins in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors were finally eliminated by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. At the same time, the Maple Leafs were golfing, having just finished dead last in the NHL. Even with the addition of first-overall pick Austin Matthews, the Leafs will not be a contender for many years.

Quality management is key to winning titles and the Raptors’ executives have been making shrewd decisions in recent years. The Leafs, however, have struggled with coaching and management up until very recently. In the 2013-2014 season, the Raptors’ hiring of General Manager Masai Ujiri changed the team’s mindset. Toronto made the postseason for the first time since ex-star Raptor Chris Bosh was playing for the team. It felt like a stepping stone for the franchise. Led by Head Coach Dwayne Casey, point guard Kyle Lowry, and guard Demar Derozan, the Raptors have a core that can sustain success. Ujiri now has a strong balance of veterans and young players. The young-guns like Corey Joseph, Norman Powell, and Delon Wright now have the opportunity to grow with the team. Ujiri’s asset management has been superb as he repeatedly shipped out older players for draft picks and cap space. He then turned the extra money into key additions like DeMarre Carroll and Jared Sullinger.

The Raptors not only have the players and personnel in place, but have developed a culture that attracts high profile players and fans. The Maple Leafs lie at the other end of the spectrum. They’ve had a losing culture for years and players are constantly negatively scrutinized by the fans and media alike. Those who feel that they have something to prove want to come to the Raptors and contribute to its culture–Toronto is a relevant city with a deep core of basketball players. Conversely, the Leafs have never come close to attracting the NHL’s superstars, like Steven Stamkos or John Tavares, in recent seasons. Meanwhile, the Raptors have been able to make legitimate contact pitches to Kevin Durant and other high profile players in free agency. This is important because, as LeBron James reaches the end of his peak years, the King’s crown will be up for grabs. In the NHL, the Leafs have to compete with the many established teams, such as the Blackhawks, Kings, Penguins, and Capitals.

Ultimately, the Raptors performed all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and have built the foundation for many more championship runs. Matthews has certainly been impressive, but he’s far from making the Leafs relevant. Besides, Toronto Maple Leafs fans love to over-hype the talent and prospects they have early on into the season. Frankly, a classic Leafs choke wouldn’t surprise anyone. For now, the Raptors are on the map and have shown the league that it’s their time to win, while the Leafs will continue to deal with too many cultural and internal problems to ever make it past the bottom of the league.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Years of disappointment, hopelessness, confusion, and pathetic performances by the Toronto Maple Leafs have officially ended. While the Toronto Raptors spent their off-season continuing to search in vain for a game-changing threat, the Leafs drafted centreman Auston Matthews with their first overall pick. Now, just a few games into the season, Matthews is already living up to the hype and looks to be a surefire NHL superstar in the making. His addition, coupled with the team’s deep prospect pool, make the Leafs a good bet to win a Stanley Cup in the near future—before the Raptors win an NBA championship.

As a generational talent, Matthews will fill the gaping void left empty since icon Mats Sundin was leading the first line. His outstanding performances will lead Toronto to many victories and will attract future star free agents to the team to play alongside him. Ultimately, Matthews’ arrival provides the Leafs with a leader, a franchise cornerstone, and the upside to become one of the NHL’s top point-producing players for years to come.

On the back end, defenceman Morgan Rielly is already a top line player for the Leafs at just 22 years old. He has the skating skill, size, vision, and hockey IQ to lead a transition out of his team’s own end or to quarterback a power play unit. He has grown and improved in each of the first three seasons he has been in the NHL, and will only continue to produce higher point totals while rear-guarding a successful Leafs squad. Behind him, 6’4”, 220 pound goalie Frederik Andersen looks to continue his NHL success after arriving from the Anaheim Ducks last season. Inking a five-year deal this off-season, the Leafs see Anderson as a large goaltender with the potential to be similar to Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop.

These intelligent and farsighted moves are largely thanks to recent personnel changes made by the team’s management. Two summers ago, team President Brendan Shanahan hired Mike Babcock, the most decorated coach in the modern era, as head coach. Shanahan then added legendary General Manager Lou Lamoriello to run the team. The duo has already started working wonders both on and off the ice. Babcock has begun grooming the team’s young players into future superstars, while Lamoriello has made many profitable transactions, bringing in veteran players on one-year deals then trading them for draft picks at the trade deadline. They’ve turned these draft picks into future stars and now have some of the most exciting prospects in the league, including Matthews.

While it’s certainly difficult to critisize a team that made it to a conference finals, the Toronto Raptors never had a realistic chance to win the Larry O’Brien trophy last year. The NBA has become a superstar-driven league, with a handful of basketball virtuosos relied on to completely take over a game for their team. Unfortunately for their title aspirations, the Raptors lack a superstar to lead them to the promised land. As good as Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan are, they never truly stood a chance against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unlike the Leafs, who already have the talent in place they will need to succeed in the future, the Raptors have a glass ceiling, and will be unable to break through and beat the superstar-studded NBA teams when the stakes are high. Thus, while the Raptors will continue to be a very good team in the Eastern conference, the Leafs appear destined to win a Stanley Cup Championship sometime in the next four or five years. When the confetti flies at the Air Canada Centre, rest assured it’ll be blue and white.

Editor's Pick: The Toronto Raptors

The Leafs have made smart moves as of late, but you can’t pick against a team that went to game six of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. One big move and some luck might end up with the Raptors winning it all very soon.

Quality Competition

By Wasif Husain

It’s a great time to be a Toronto sports fan. The Maple Leafs look rejuvenated while the Blue Jays are making another deep run in the playoffs. However, the Toronto Raptors are the team some people tend to forget. The Raptors have not only developed one of the best home atmospheres in the NBA, but are the Toronto team closest to winning a league title.

Last May marked the end of one of the greatest Toronto sports playoff runs in modern history. After two series victories and two wins in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors were finally eliminated by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. At the same time, the Maple Leafs were golfing, having just finished dead last in the NHL. Even with the addition of first-overall pick Austin Matthews, the Leafs will not be a contender for many years.

Quality management is key to winning titles and the Raptors’ executives have been making shrewd decisions in recent years. The Leafs, however, have struggled with coaching and management up until very recently. In the 2013-2014 season, the Raptors’ hiring of General Manager Masai Ujiri changed the team’s mindset. Toronto made the postseason for the first time since ex-star Raptor Chris Bosh was playing for the team. It felt like a stepping stone for the franchise. Led by Head Coach Dwayne Casey, point guard Kyle Lowry, and guard Demar Derozan, the Raptors have a core that can sustain success. Ujiri now has a strong balance of veterans and young players. The young-guns like Corey Joseph, Norman Powell, and Delon Wright now have the opportunity to grow with the team. Ujiri’s asset management has been superb as he repeatedly shipped out older players for draft picks and cap space. He then turned the extra money into key additions like DeMarre Carroll and Jared Sullinger.

The Raptors not only have the players and personnel in place, but have developed a culture that attracts high profile players and fans. The Maple Leafs lie at the other end of the spectrum. They’ve had a losing culture for years and players are constantly negatively scrutinized by the fans and media alike. Those who feel that they have something to prove want to come to the Raptors and contribute to its culture–Toronto is a relevant city with a deep core of basketball players. Conversely, the Leafs have never come close to attracting the NHL’s superstars, like Steven Stamkos or John Tavares, in recent seasons. Meanwhile, the Raptors have been able to make legitimate contact pitches to Kevin Durant and other high profile players in free agency. This is important because, as LeBron James reaches the end of his peak years, the King’s crown will be up for grabs. In the NHL, the Leafs have to compete with the many established teams, such as the Blackhawks, Kings, Penguins, and Capitals.

Ultimately, the Raptors performed all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and have built the foundation for many more championship runs. Matthews has certainly been impressive, but he’s far from making the Leafs relevant. Besides, Toronto Maple Leafs fans love to over-hype the talent and prospects they have early on into the season. Frankly, a classic Leafs choke wouldn’t surprise anyone. For now, the Raptors are on the map and have shown the league that it’s their time to win, while the Leafs will continue to deal with too many cultural and internal problems to ever make it past the bottom of the league.

Toronto Maple Leafs

By Elias Blahacek

It’s a great time to be a Toronto sports fan. The Maple Leafs look rejuvenated while the Blue Jays are making another deep run in the playoffs. However, the Toronto Raptors are the team some people tend to forget. The Raptors have not only developed one of the best home atmospheres in the NBA, but are the Toronto team closest to winning a league title.

Last May marked the end of one of the greatest Toronto sports playoff runs in modern history. After two series victories and two wins in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors were finally eliminated by the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. At the same time, the Maple Leafs were golfing, having just finished dead last in the NHL. Even with the addition of first-overall pick Austin Matthews, the Leafs will not be a contender for many years.

Quality management is key to winning titles and the Raptors’ executives have been making shrewd decisions in recent years. The Leafs, however, have struggled with coaching and management up until very recently. In the 2013-2014 season, the Raptors’ hiring of General Manager Masai Ujiri changed the team’s mindset. Toronto made the postseason for the first time since ex-star Raptor Chris Bosh was playing for the team. It felt like a stepping stone for the franchise. Led by Head Coach Dwayne Casey, point guard Kyle Lowry, and guard Demar Derozan, the Raptors have a core that can sustain success. Ujiri now has a strong balance of veterans and young players. The young-guns like Corey Joseph, Norman Powell, and Delon Wright now have the opportunity to grow with the team. Ujiri’s asset management has been superb as he repeatedly shipped out older players for draft picks and cap space. He then turned the extra money into key additions like DeMarre Carroll and Jared Sullinger.

The Raptors not only have the players and personnel in place, but have developed a culture that attracts high profile players and fans. The Maple Leafs lie at the other end of the spectrum. They’ve had a losing culture for years and players are constantly negatively scrutinized by the fans and media alike. Those who feel that they have something to prove want to come to the Raptors and contribute to its culture–Toronto is a relevant city with a deep core of basketball players. Conversely, the Leafs have never come close to attracting the NHL’s superstars, like Steven Stamkos or John Tavares, in recent seasons. Meanwhile, the Raptors have been able to make legitimate contact pitches to Kevin Durant and other high profile players in free agency. This is important because, as LeBron James reaches the end of his peak years, the King’s crown will be up for grabs. In the NHL, the Leafs have to compete with the many established teams, such as the Blackhawks, Kings, Penguins, and Capitals.

Ultimately, the Raptors performed all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and have built the foundation for many more championship runs. Matthews has certainly been impressive, but he’s far from making the Leafs relevant. Besides, Toronto Maple Leafs fans love to over-hype the talent and prospects they have early on into the season. Frankly, a classic Leafs choke wouldn’t surprise anyone. For now, the Raptors are on the map and have shown the league that it’s their time to win, while the Leafs will continue to deal with too many cultural and internal problems to ever make it past the bottom of the league.

Editor's Pick: The Toronto Raptors

The Leafs have made smart moves as of late, but you can’t pick against a team that went to game six of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. One big move and some luck might end up with the Raptors winning it all very soon.