The NHL season is about to start, and Amazon Prime has gifted us (or trolled us) with their new season of All or Nothing. The new season followed the Toronto Maple Leafs during last season, the season was supposed to end with Toronto breaking their 53-year Stanley Cup drought. As hockey fans know, the Leafs choked in what should have been an easy win in the first round of the playoffs against their rivals the Montreal Canadiens. I did an article after another early exit from the playoffs, and I was thinking of doing another article about the upcoming season. Then Amazon Prime announced that the season would premiere on October 1st, and I figured I would cover all of it in one article. I heard some hockey analysts' opinions on the show in the week leading up to release so I was pretty sure I would enjoy it. I think the series met my expectations, but it did not exceed them, even though I really enjoyed it. I was hoping the focus of the show might be on the players, but it was really on the management; specifically, Kyle Dubas the general manager, and Sheldon Keefe the head coach. A bunch of the players were highlighted throughout the five episodes but, Dubas and Keefe remained the constant focus. I found it very insightful learning more about Dubas and Keefe, but key players on the team remain a mystery.

Hockey culture is a frustrating thing for fans, players often keep their comments to a minimum and you often feel you don't really get to know them. I think one of the hardest things as a Leafs fan is that when players are so guarded you don't know how to read them. I want to cheer them, but when I don't hear them own up to the loss and acknowledge their responsibility it is hard to see them as people. When training camp began a few weeks back the players addressed the media, I wish the players told everyone how hard the loss was and how it has given them focus for the upcoming season. We got the usual bland hockey answers, it is hard to feel sorry for them when we don't get to see them as human beings and not robots. I blame hockey culture for that, it is something you see specifically in hockey, in other sports the players show more personality. As much as I enjoyed the season and want more, I don't think players will like fans and the audience getting that close of a look at their lives. We got to see Dunas and Keefe's personalities, and it would have been great to get more from the players. I think for me it would be Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews that I wish we saw more of as they are the young core of the team. The series got Will Arnett (Arrested Development), a known Toronto Maple Leaf fan to narrate the series. I think Arnett nailed it; the way he started the season sold watchers on his attachment to the team. 


The first episode starts with the end, it covers how the season ended in failure (again), and then we go back to the beginning of the season. The first episode shows the Leafs' offseason roster additions, and we get to meet Auston Matthews parents. The episode shows the first few games of the season, and we get a sense from Keefe that his is unhappy with their play. Keefe tries to implant the message into the players, but he gets resistance from the players because they are getting good results. Keefe during practice speaks to Jason Spezza and John Tavares (team captain), he explains to them why he is pushing the team and is looking for their support. This is a key scene of the episode (and possibly the season) as we now see that Keefe's sees the problems of the team and he is trying to fix them, but the players are fighting back against his attempts. The team is winning, we see both Joe Thorton and Wayne Simmonds go down with injuries. The episode ends with the Leafs losing to Ottawa, a game in which they gave away a big lead and then lose the game.


Episode two opens with the post-mortem between Keefe and the players after their loss to Ottawa. Ilya Mikheyev meets with Kyle Dubas because he is not happy with his playing time and how he is being used. Dubas tells him that he is contributing and that he is a key member of the team, we now know that Mikheyev's representation has since requested a trade which will not be granted. John Tavares who got off to a slower start is working on his shot in hopes to regain his shooting stroke. In the second game against Ottawa Keefe meets with Mikheyev in between periods to show him proof of something he is doing wrong. The teaching moment was to make sure Mikheyev keeps skating, if he does then he can keep the pressure on the opponents. Dubas skates on the practice ice with his 3-year-old son, Dubas explains that he understands the expectations and pressures that come with the job. Jake Muzzin gets hit in the face with a stick, Auston Matthews hurt his wrist cross-checking someone, and Fred Andersen hurt his knee. The Matthews injury is one that bothered him all season and resulted in him having wrist surgery in the offseason. Jimmy Vesey an offseason signing by the Leafs is still a young player, but he has yet to find a place on any team he has been on. Brendan Shanahan the team's president has a conversation with Dubas about Willian Nylander, a very talented player that can at times be careless. Keefe has a mid-practice conversation with Vesey about him needing to find his place on the roster. Keefe says that he needs to figure out what type of player he is, he needs to find his niche and unless he does, he might not a position on the team. Jack Campbell injures his groin while in goal, but he finishes the game despite being really hurt. The team takes three games from the Oilers, but then loses two games to the Canucks. Dubas meets with Jimmy Vesey to put him on waivers where he is claimed by the Canucks. A meeting is held by Keefe, Dubas, Marner, Tavares, Muzzin, Reilly and Thorton. Keefe points out that the team is not scoring "dirty" goals. Those type of goals is the most common goal scored during the playoffs (key moment of the season).  The episode ends with the Leafs losing to the Jets (the team directly behind them in the standings), they are on a losing streak. Keefe says that he thinks teams don't believe the Leafs are good as the standings make them appear to be.


The players are warned during a meeting with Dubas that the team needs to keep being cautious about the protocols and their current losing streak. During practice Keefe calls out the team for not trying hard enough, he pushes them in hopes of getting the team back in the win column. The team acquires Alex Galchenyuk, a former third overall draft pick who had one good season but has since struggled and moved from team to team. Galchenyuk was sent to the AHL to be given time to train and work on his game, he is called up the NHL after getting some development time. We the salary cap games the Leafs need to play to make them cap compliant and where they can free up space. Andersen has another bad game in net, he is playing through an injury and is eventually placed on injured reserve. Campbell is healthy now and he will play while Andersen is out. Campbell starts in net and the team wins; Campbell is shown to be a good guy who has had a slow start to his career. Muzzin who won a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings knows what it takes to win, we see him spending time outside of the ice with his partner on defense Justin Holl. The team wins again with Campbell, but the following game the team gets off to a slow start with the backup goalie Michael Hutchinson in net. Keefe pushes the team during intermission to get back on track and they come back to win the game. The trade deadline is approaching, the Leafs don't know if Andersen will get back to full health complicating things. Campbell is still winning and breaks a 104-year-old record for most consecutive wins to start a season. Nick Foligno is one of the players that Toronto is tied to with the deadline approaching, Foligno is the captain for the Blue Jackets (the team that eliminated Toronto in the previous season). The Leafs acquire Foligno, but the cost is very high; they also acquire another goaltender in case Andersen cannot get back to full health. The trade deadline bonanza was followed up with a loss against the Canadiens in an ugly game for the team. The day after the loss Andersen is back on the ice taking shots, the new goalie is in the net against his old team, and they lose again. The Leafs lose again, and they are playing the Canucks the following game when Zach Hyman has a knee-to-knee collision that causes him to miss the remaining games before the playoffs. The episode ends with the team losing to the Canucks. 


The episode opens with defenseman Zach Bogosian talking to his family who are in Florida, he has not seen them since the season started due to the travel restrictions. Bogosian is another player who has won a Stanley Cup, he won the previous season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bogosian trips and slams into the boards against the Canucks, he hurts his shoulder and needs stitches inside his mouth.  Foligno arrives after having to be in quarantine for seven days before he can join the team, he meets the team and is happy to be there. Foligno was born in the U.S., but his home is in Sudbury, Ontario, his father is a former player who played for the Leafs for three years. The first game with Foligno ends with a win, Foligno in the post-game is wearing his dad's 1993 Leafs hat. In a game against the Jets Thorton gets into a heated exchange with Nikolaj Ehlers. The regular season is winding down and in a game against the Canadiens Nick Foligno hurts his back and needs help to make it to the medical room. Andersen's first game back is bad, and the final game of the regular season is another loss, the team finishes first in the Northern Division still. The Leafs are set to play the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, the matchup features to original six teams facing off.  The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 1979, 42 years earlier.  


The final episode is all about the playoffs and this should have had a happy ending, but we know how this is going to end in disappointment.  Game one was started by Jack Campbell and saw the return of Foligno, Hyman and Bogosian. The first game of series features the scary injured John Tavares suffered, he was hit in the head, and he suffered a concussion. Tavares would be okay, but it was a very scary moment to relive, and you know it messed with the rest of the team. Toronto lost game one, but they did compete which was good to see since you know they were worried about the health of Tavares. The Leafs go on to win the next three games, they have the Canadiens on the brink of elimination until Toronto loses the next three games and is themselves eliminated for a fifth consecutive year. The episode spends more time with the losses, the wins were expected, but the losses were not. You can see the losses featured slow starts by the Leafs, they came back in two of the games, but they were never in game seven. In game six during intermission Keefe gives an amazing speech to his players, he challenges them to be the great players he knows they are. After the game six loss there is a coaching staff meeting where Paul MacLean makes the most insightful comment. MacLean says that the players have demons with gave seven, he doesn't seem convinced they can overcome them. Kyle Dubas has a one-on-one meeting Mitch Marner before game seven. Marner has struggled yet again to contribute while making some key mistakes too. Dubas believes Marner is struggling with confidence, and he is reminding Marner that he should be confident. Game seven the Leafs play flat; their heads are not in the game. Reilly, Spezza and Matthews are vocal in the intermission that the season will be over if they can't push harder, and get come back. The final few minutes shows the players are heartbroken by the loss, especially Campbell, Marner and Matthews. The end of the series is Keefe, Shanahan and Dubas all stating their belief that the team will succeed.  


The series gave fans a look at how the organization operates, it showed that both the general manager and head coach were aware of the issues, but they were unable to solve them before they got eliminated. Dubas came across as a smart and thoughtful general manager who is aware of what is at stake, but he truly believes the answer to the team's woes are already in their dressing room. We never saw Dubas lose his cool, it doesn't mean he doesn't, but it does not seem like his way of handling things. Sheldon Keefe though does lose his cool, my perception of him as a coach has changed completely from my original opinion. I thought he was more of a player's coach, but I get a sense that he holds his players accountable and will push them when he thinks they need it. Keefe also swears a lot (they all do), but I enjoyed that since it felt genuine. Keefe spent the season trying to imbue killer instinct into the team, but it never worked, and the team failed to find post-season success again. Dubas also did his job, he added pieces to the team in an attempt to make the team more well rounded, Foligno seemed like a homerun addition until he got injured. Could Dubas have acquired Taylor Hall instead of Foligno, probably, but there is no guarantee that Hall would have fit with the team. Foligno was a proven leader with ties to Maple Leafs history, it seems bad luck that he hurt his back and was never at 100% when they needed him. 

The one thing about episode five that sticks with me is Jack Campbell, he had such a great season and series. Campbell let in one bad goal in game seven and he seemed to really take it personally, a goal deficit is something a team as offensively gifted as Toronto is should not have been a concern. Campbell was a wreck in the dressing room after the loss, multiple people went over to him and gave him a hug. Throughout the five episodes it became apparent that Campbell is just a really nice and positive guy, his contract is up at the end of the season, and I hope he stays in Toronto. I don't think Toronto can afford Campbell, but I will always be cheering for good things for Jack "Soupy" Campbell. We never go to see any of the post season interviews or meetings that the coaches and players had, I wish we did, but I am sure the Leafs would not want that available to the public. The show was great, but it did feel like All for Nothing rather than All or Nothing. The result sucked, and it was made worse because some of those players I was rooting for, and it seemed that management was aware that a problem existed. The issue to me then has to be in the room, the players do not show in those big games, they chase rather than lead. I am not sure if anything will be different for the upcoming season, until the playoffs start it will be hard to feel confident.

This past offseason the Leafs lost Joe Thorton, Fred Andersen, Zach Bogosian and Zach Hyman, while they added Petr Mrazek, Michael Bunting, David Kampf, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie. I think they improved their forward group, they got tougher to play against and now they have a shut down line of Kampf, Kase and Mikheyev/Kerfoot. Their goaltending might be close to the same, I have liked Mrazek for years, but it is hard to know just how good he will be and if him and Campbell can stay healthy. The defense is the issue for me, they lost Bogosian and did not replace him his physicality and toughness. The Leafs will rely on Rasmus Sandin, Travis Dermott and Timothy Liljegren showing improvement. The problem I see is that none of them are great defensive defensemen and all of them lack size, strength and physicality. I think the team is deeper overall, but the losses of Hyman, Thornton, Bogosian and Andersen will hurt the team. The losses in five consecutive seasons have left a scar on Mitch Marner and until he can get by it, I think the Leafs will be stuck. This series gave us an inside look into one of the biggest hockey teams in the world, we learned more about management but not as much about the player. I really enjoyed it, but I wish there could have been a second season; the end of the series felt like unfinished business. The NHL season starts in a few days, and when the playoffs begin season two will start, but this time we won't have behind the scenes access. 

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