In a lot of ways, the 2015-16 season represented more of the same for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The results were nearly identical to 2014-15, right down to finishing in the basement of the East (69 points last season, 68 the one the year before).
Indeed, Brendan Shanahan is probably correct in saying that the Maple Leafs earned the No. 1 pick “the hard way,” or at least “earned” the higher draft lottery odds that helped them land Auston Matthews.
The big question, really, is how long will fans be patient with the Maple Leafs taking baby steps in the right direction?
Naturally, the team tried to make more a leap forward in seeking Steven Stamkos and, to a less dramatic extent, Jimmy Vesey.
They fell short in those regards, but that doesn’t mean that management merely idled while hoping for improvements from in-house development.
The Maple Leafs made bold changes in net, ending the Jonathan Bernier era while betting big on Frederik Andersen and also bringing in a promising backup in Jhonas Enroth.
Beyond those big moves in net, the Maple Leafs made some minor adjustments. They handed surprising money and term to Matt Martin while taking short-term fliers on veterans Milan Michalek and Roman Polak.
On paper, this team still looks quite a few steps away from being a playoff contender, but perhaps we’ll start to see things come together?
A lot of that rides on the work of Matthews, Morgan Rielly and other young players (William Nylander, Mitch Marner) who may or may not make a lasting impact on the regular season roster.
Will the rebuilding plan start to pay dividends? PHT explores the iconic franchise on Tuesday.