Our NHL Saturday miniseries takes on the Toronto Maple Leafs today, a team with a complicated and long history dating back 105 seasons. Of course, we are only covering the expansion era here, from 1968 forward, so there are a lot of teams from this franchise missing on this list: 11 other pre-expansion teams were ranked higher sabermetrically than our No. 5 team below, including the 1967 Stanley Cup champions—the last team from Toronto to win the NHL title, surprisingly.

Overall, the Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups among their 71 postseason appearances, but as we noted recently. the team hasn’t experienced a lot of success in recent seasons come playoff time. In fact, Toronto hasn’t even made it to the Cup Finals since 1967, which is a serious drought for an Original Six franchise. Of the other originals—Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montréal, and New York (Rangers)—the Leafs are the only ones without a Cup title in the expansion era.

Editor’s Note: The team also was known as the Toronto Arenas (1917-1919) and the Toronto St. Patricks (1919-1926) before settling on the Maple Leafs moniker in 1926.

No. 5: 2017-18 Toronto Maple Leafs

The first team on our list finished with a 49-26-7 record for 105 points and third place in the Atlantic Division. These Leafs had the No. 2 offense and the No. 11 defense, combining for a No. 6 ranking in the overall SRS. They played the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs—and lost in seven games, a pattern which readers will see develop below again and (seemingly) again. Toronto fell behind 3-1 in the series before forcing a Game 7 on the road—which it then lost.

A trio of scorers topped 60 points: centers Mitch Marner (22G, 47A), Auston Matthews (34G, 29A), and William Nylander (20G, 41A). Goaltender Frederik Andersen was the top workhorse, starting 66 games to the tune of a 38-21-5 record with a .918 save percentage and 5 shutouts. He slumped in the postseason to just a .896 save percentage, and in the decisive Game 7 on the road, he coughed up 3 goals in the third period as the Bruins came from behind to win, 7-4. Ouch.

No. 4: 1973-74 Toronto Maple Leafs

With just a 35-27-16 record, this team makes our list: a fourth-place finish in the East Division was good enough for a playoff slot, too. In an odd sabermetric quirk, the team was No. 4 in goals scored and No. 4 in goals allowed—but just No. 6 in the SRS rankings overall. They had to play the tough Bruins in the first round, though, a team that would reach the Cup Finals (and one that had won Cup titles in 1970 and 1972 as well). Boston swept Toronto right out of the postseason.

The top scorer was center Darryl Sittler (38G, 46A, 55 PIMs), as eight skaters posted at least 40 points on the year. Three netminders split time, led by Doug Favell (14-7-9) and Eddie Johnston (12-9-4). The playoff series was interesting in that Games 1 and 4 were close, while Games 2 and 3 were not. The Bruins outscored the Leafs, 17-9, while winning two 1-goal games and two 3-goal games. In net, Favell took three of the playoff losses despite a .912 save percentage.

No. 3: 2020-21 Toronto Maple Leafs

This team won the North Division in the Covid-adjusted season where every team was re-grouped geographically. Toronto posted a 35-14-7 record for 77 points, and the Leafs finished No. 5 in the SRS overall based on the No. 6 offense and the No. 7 defense. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know how this one ends: in the opening round of the playoffs, the Canadiens came back from a 3-1 deficit to knock out Toronto dramatically in a seven-game series.

Marner (20G, 47A) and Matthews (41G, 25A) were the top scorers, while the crease was a timeshare for goalies Jack Campbell (17-3-2, 2 shutouts) and Andersen (13-8-3). After Montréal took Game 1 on the road, the Leafs won three straight games to take control of the matchup. Yet consecutive overtime wins in Games 5 and 6 put the Canadiens back in the fray, and they won Game 7 on the road, 3-1, on the way to the Cup Finals. If there’s a way to lose, Toronto finds it.

No. 2: 1967-68 Toronto Maple Leafs

This team was the defending Cup champion, but in the first year of expansion, they finished fifth among the Original Six in the East Division to miss the playoffs altogether. A 33-31-10 record for 76 points is a weak showing, but these Leafs actually finished No. 4 in the overall SRS with the No. 6 offense and the No. 2 defense. Talk about a weird season: Toronto missed postseason action by four points in the standings despite a plus-33 goal-scoring differential. Whoops!

Only two players topped 50 points on this team: C Mike Walton (30G, 29A, 48 PIMs) and left wing Bob Pulford (20G, 30A, 40 PIMs). The goalies were better, of course: Bruce Gamble (20-14-2, 5 SOs, 2.32 GAA) and Johnny Bower (13-17-8, 4 SOs, 2.26 GAA) did enough to win almost every game, basically, combining for a .934 save percentage. The Leafs won 5 of their last 6 games, but it didn’t help as Chicago slipped into the postseason instead despite a minus-10 goal deficit.

No. 1: 2021-22 Toronto Maple Leafs

With a team record 115 points, these Leafs also set a franchise record for wins (54). Toronto finished second in the Atlantic Division, while sporting the No. 2 offense and the No. 18 defense. This added up to a No. 6 ranking in the overall SRS. Alas, the team had the misfortune of drawing the defending Cup champions from Tampa Bay in the first round—and the Lightning would return to the Cup Finals again, starting with a seven-game series victory over Toronto. Surprise.

Matthews (60G, 46A) and Marner (35G, 62A) were joined by Nylander (34G, 46A) and C John Tavares (27G, 49A, 32 PIMs) atop the scoring charts, with Matthews winning the Hart Trophy vote—and our confirmation of that vote as well. But the goalies combined for a 2.93 GAA, led by Campbell (31-9-6, 5 SOs, .914 S%). The Leafs took a 3-2 lead in the series against Tampa Bay before losing Game 6 on the road in OT and Game 7 at home by one goal. Again, crushing losses.