It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times for Leaf fans. This is the time of year we both love and hate. It seems that every year between the trade deadline (sometimes shortly before) and the end of the season, the Leafs go on a hot streak, thereby giving their fans some hope that maybe they will sneak into the playoffs and as Edmonton showed us a couple of years ago, once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen. As I said, sometimes it happens before the trading deadline, thereby “forcing” the Leafs management to make some silly last-minute deal, usually trading away kids and draft choices for some veteran way past his prime. I’ve written about this a couple of times before.
Aside: I was at the Leafs game last Saturday night, and they had a “top 10” list on the Jumbotron during a commercial break. This was the top 10 scorers in NHL history who spent time as a Toronto Maple Leaf. This included long-time Leafs like Sundin and Gilmour, but also the likes of Leetch, Housley, Nieuwendyk, Francis, and Larry Murphy, all of whom spent very little time in Toronto. At least 6 of the 10 spent two seasons or less as a Leaf, mostly near the end of their careers (though Vincent Damphousse did his Leaf time at the beginning of his career (sob)), and these are all players with 15+ year careers.
Anyway, since February 16, the Leafs are 9-5, winning 5 of 6 at one point in there. They’re beating some pretty good teams too — taking two from the Flyers, destroying the Bruins 8-2, and also beating the Capitals and Senators. They’re playing pretty good hockey these days, so we have to ask, as we do every year about this time, “Where was this two months ago, when we were still in the playoff hunt?”
Of course, it would be great for the Leafs to go on a huge winning streak and make the playoffs and continue that momentum into the second and maybe third round, but it just ain’t likely. If that can’t happen, then it would be great, though less so, for them to completely tank and lose all of their remaining games, giving themselves a better draft pick and a chance to pick up Steve Stamkos. If they can suck all of next year too and pick up John Tavares (no, not the lacrosse player, his nephew the hockey player), that would be even better.
But that’s not that likely either. I have heard people actually suggesting that the Leafs should try to lose most of their remaining games, but come on. You just can’t expect professional athletes to try to lose. No, what will probably happen is the same as in the previous couple of years: the Leafs will do pretty well for the remainder of the season and miss the playoffs by that much. Or they’ll just make the playoffs and get slaughtered in the first round. Either way, they get a low draft pick. Such is life in Leaf Nation.