2024 PWHL Toronto Season Review: We Could've Had It All
- 3 min read

2024 PWHL Toronto Season Review: We Could've Had It All

2024 PWHL Toronto Season Review: We Could've Had It All by Melissa Burgess

Record: 17-7-0, 47 points
Final Standings: 1st overall (of 6)
Playoffs: Lost in semifinals to Minnesota, 3-2

Head Coach: Troy Ryan
General Manager: Gina Kingsbury

Leading Scorer: Natalie Spooner - 27 points (20G, 7A) in 24 games
Top Goalie: Kristen Campbell, 16-6-0, .927 sv% and 1.99 GAA

Overall Thoughts

Toronto was such a fun team to watch in the inaugural PWHL season. Things weren't perfect early on, but as they got into the swing of things and went on a long winning streak, it was thrilling. Every game, every win, came with a wealth of anticipation. When will they lose again? Have they become unbeatable? How are they so good?! Between Spooner's offense and Campbell's goaltending, this looked like an incredibly well-rounded team poised to capture the Walter Cup. They checked all the boxes of a championship caliber team, but just couldn't close it out when all was said and done.

What Went Right

A lot. It admittedly took a little bit for Toronto get its feet wet, and the team lost four of its first five games. But once they got into a pattern and figured out what worked for them, it worked really well. Toronto won 11 straight games from January 26 until March 23, before the international break. The team closed the regular season on a four-game winning streak, amid which they became the first to clinch a playoff spot (April 20) and then clinched first place (May 1).

Toronto led the league in goals-for (69) and goals-against (50) and had the best penalty kill (91.8 percent). Natalie Spooner led the league with 27 points, including 20 goals, while Sarah Nurse was second in the league with 23 points. Kristen Campbell was one of the league's most-played goaltenders and led the PWHL with three shutouts. She was on point most of the season, and Toronto's top unit was firing on all cylinders, which really helped propel them to the top of the standings.

What Went Wrong

While the top unit played incredibly well, it also played a lot. Depth players on the third and fourth lines or last defensive pairing were sparsely used. While it's understandable to rely on your top stars, they alone can't carry a team.

Finishing the season atop the standings meant that Toronto got to pick its semifinal opponent, choosing #4 seed Minnesota. But after having such a great season and going up 2-0 in the semifinal series, things fell apart quickly. Maddie Rooney came in to relieve Nicole Hensley and immediately went on a hot streak. Then, Spooner got hurt, adding insult to injury. Toronto had three opportunities to clinch their spot in the final, but squandered the series lead and saw their season end instead to the eventual Walter Cup champions. They scored just one playoff goal after Spooner left the series.

Looking Ahead

Toronto currently has 11 players under contract for next season: forwards Victoria Bach, Natalie Spooner, Jesse Compher, Emma Maltais, Maggie Connors, Blayre Turnbull & Sarah Nurse; defenders Kali Flanagan, Jocelyne Larocque & Renata Fast, and goaltender Kristen Campbell. (Note: Spooner could miss the beginning of the season after having surgery to repair her ACL injury.)

The team has a great core returning, but will also have some spots to fill via its draft picks and free agency. I'd expect players like Hannah Miller and Rebecca Leslie to get re-signing offers before free agency opens.

It will also be interesting to see how the team handles goaltending, with only Campbell (their #1) signed for next season. Erica Howe only appeared in three games, while Carly Jackson didn't get any ice time. Spots for goaltenders are already so limited in this league, but Toronto will have to decide if they want to continue riding Campbell or find a partner for her to truly split the workload with.

Given the team's record and general performance, I'd expect Troy Ryan to return as head coach. The other big change likely coming for next season may be a new home for Toronto, who quickly outgrew its Mattamy Athletic Centre home ice. Toronto sold out all of its games there, and the likely upgrade option is Coca-Cola Coliseum, home of the AHL's Toronto Marlies, where they played their postseason games.

(Photo: Kelly Hagenson/PWHL)