The Leafs may be losing, but the kids are still going to be alright

The patience of Leaf fans could be put to the test again if things continue to go the way they have been in the team's first round series with the Boston Bruins. But would an early exit from the playoffs, for the second straight year, really be all that bad?

The future's still looking bright for the Leafs despite 2 tough losses

Mitch Marner led the Leafs in scoring this year with 22 goals and 47 assists (The Associated Press)

If Leaf fans are anything, they are patient.

And that patience could be put to the test again if things continue to go the way they are going in their first round series with the Boston Bruins.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews keeps the puck from Boston Bruins' Rick Nash during the first period of Game 2 (The Associated Press)

But would an early exit from the playoffs — for the second straight year — really be all that bad? Let's face it, Leaf fans have seen far worse; this is the same team that only made the playoffs once between 2004 and 2017.

The future of this team is still looking very bright, regardless of what happens in the playoffs this year. The Leaf's core is young, and they seem to be headed in the right direction.

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara shoves Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri to retaliate for his late hit on Boston Bruins center Tommy Wingels, bottom left, as Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner starts to get up during the third period of Game 1. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Take Mitch Marner for example.

He followed up a very good rookie season with an even better sophomore season. He was particularly good in the second half of this season, emerging as a dominant force offensively for the Leafs.

"The second half has gone the way we wanted to," Marner said.

Despite a slow start, Marner finished with 22-goals and 69-points, to lead the Leafs in scoring this season.

"As the year went on, he got better and better," said veteran forward James Van Riemsdyk.

Leafs fans celebrate in Maple Leafs Square (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

While his point totals were growing, so was his popularity among Leaf fans.

Auston Matthew's number 34 jersey is the most popular for fans to wear at games, but there are also quite a few number 16 jerseys in stands as well — and they are not for Darcy Tucker.

Marner grew up cheering for the Leafs

Something else that makes the 20-year-old Marner popular with Leaf fans is the fact that he is one of them — Marner grew up in Markham cheering for his hometown team.

He remembers when the Leafs were facing the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs in 2013.

"It was a heartbreaking one," Marner said

He had just turned 16, and like most Leaf fans, the first thing that pops into his mind when he thinks of that series is Game 7.

The Leafs were leading the Bruins 4-1 in the third period, and then there was a colossal collapse.

Boston scored three goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation, and they went on to beat the Leafs in overtime with a final score of 5-4.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins players shake hands after overtime in Game 7 of their Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. (The Associated Press)

It was a bitter pill for any Leaf fan to swallow, but Marner says he was amazed to see how Torontonians rallied around their team at playoff time.

"The city was electric," he said. "It was a lot fun to be around."

While the experience is very different as a player, Marner says he is still very much a fan when it comes to other sports teams in the city.

He's not only been spotted attending Blue Jays games, once last season he threw out the first pitch.

For the last couple of years, he's also been a regular at Argo games — even developing friendships with many of the players on the team. 

"It's been great getting to know all those guys this past summer, and seeing their success," Marner told CBC last November, a few days before the Argos won the Grey Cup.

Marner says it would be nuts in Toronto if the Leafs ever win another Stanley Cup (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Marner says he can only imagine what it would be like in the city if his Leafs went on to a championship run like the Argos did last year.

"It would nuts, it'd be crazy," he said. "The city loves it's hockey players, it'd be a lot of fun to be around."

Unless the Leafs can find a way to dig themselves out of this 0-2 hole against the Bruins, that kind of celebration will have to be put on hold for a least another season.

That shouldn't be a problem for Marner, because if being a Leaf fan has taught him anything, it's patience.