Mitch Marner

Getty Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs

As he cleaned out his locker Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner experienced the all-too-familiar pain of another early start to the summer.

The Maple Leafs’ short postseason run came to an end at the hands of the Boston Bruins, who emerged victorious in their first-round series with a dramatic overtime win in Game 7.

“It sucks,” Marner said in his end-of-season media availability. “It’s all the same [expletive] pain to be honest. It’s never fun going home early. Never gets easier.”

With speculation swirling about Marner’s future with the Maple Leafs after another first-round playoff exit, the 27-year-old winger said that it “means the world” to play in Toronto. What he said next, though – no matter how it may have been intended – incurred substantial criticism from Toronto fans and media alike.

“Obviously, we’re looked upon as… gods here, to be honest,” Marner said. “Something you really appreciate, the love that you get here from this fan base and this attention is kind of unlike any other.”

Marner Under Fire for Lackluster Playoff Performance

One thing is for certain: there was absolutely nothing godlike about the Maple Leafs during their first-round series against the Bruins.

Toronto’s offense went silent against Boston, averaging just 1.5 goals per game over the seven-game series and eclipsing the two-goal mark just once. Marner was a major disappointment, recording just three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in the series.

In the context of Marner’s disappointing performance during the first round of the playoffs, his “gods” comment didn’t exactly sit well with Toronto fans.

“Mitch Marner believes he is viewed as a god by Leafs fans,” one fan posted on X. “It gives us a clear look into the mind of an entitled, overpaid, spoiled brat. No wonder he acts the way he does, in Mitch’s mind, there’s no obligation to perform in the postseason because he is getting paid regardless.”

Others lamented the thoughtlessness of Marner’s word choice, particularly in the context of yet another first-round exit for the Maple Leafs.

“Mitch Marner saying ‘we’re looked upon as kind of Gods here to be honest’ — even if it’s true — is one of the worst Room Readings any fanbase has ever seen,” another fan posted on X. “Read the room, guy.”

Maple Leafs’ ‘Core 4’ Can’t Get it Done – Again

The fact that Marner said nothing during his media availability about taking accountability or needing to be better only added to his perceived “god” complex. Regardless of the intent behind the comment, the fact remains that Marner is part of a core group that has once again failed to lead the Maple Leafs to playoff success. 

Toronto’s “Core Four” – Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares – is the forward group that currently accounts for $40,505,616 of the NHL’s $83.5 million salary cap, nearly half of the Maple Leafs’ total cap hit, and yet has just one playoff series win together since 2016-17.
Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, Marner was resolute in his belief that the core has what it takes to be successful in the postseason.
“We’re great players,” Marner said. “It’s not an easy thing to do to win the Stanley Cup and we know that and everyone knows it… It’s never going to get any easier. Challenge is filled with adversity. We’ve been through a lot of that and it’s only going to make us better.”

No matter how difficult it may be, one team wins the Stanley Cup each year. And every year since 1967, that team has not been the Maple Leafs.

Of course, the blame does not rest squarely on Marner’s shoulders; but with the Maple Leafs and the “Core Four” approaching an impasse, there is reason to believe that he may end up being a cap casualty sooner rather than later.

Marner’s Future in Toronto Remains in Question

With Marner and Tavares set to become unrestricted free agents after the 2024-25 season, the Maple Leafs will be faced with some difficult decisions regarding whether or not to keep the group together.

No matter who gives Marner his next contract, it’s bound to be a big one; his current contract is entering its sixth and final year with an annual cap hit of $10,903,000 and a no-movement clause that protects him from being waived, assigned to the minors, or traded without approval.

“That’d be a goal,” Marner, a Toronto native, said of the possibility of signing a long-term extension with the Maple Leafs. “I’ve expressed my love for this place, this city. Obviously, I’ve grown up here. We’ll start thinking about that now and try and figure something out.”

After yet another disappointing end to the season, though, perhaps Marner’s hefty cap hit could be better spent elsewhere if the Maple Leafs aspire to make a meaningful run in the playoffs.

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