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The Leafs: can’t help the past; the future always looks brighter—what about the here and now?

We’ve all either lived through or analyzed (to death) the history of the Maple Leaf franchise since their last Cup finals appearance in 1967.  While often instructive to assess how the franchise has arrived to this point in its history, there clearly is not much that can be done to change what has already transpired with the franchise.

As I stressed a while back, the Leafs have not always been “lousy” (click to see the earlier post).  But championship success has nonetheless remained outside the organization's reach, for all kinds of reasons.  With a bit of luck, and a few breaks, Toronto might have won it all in 1993 or 2002.  But it wasn’t to be.

The future?  Well, as I’ve also posted here, the optimist can certainly find reasons to look at the proverbial glass as half full.  Three young core defensemen (Gunnarsson, Schenn, Phaneuf) provide legitimate hope. Grabovski (if he can maintain his current efforts), Kessel, Kulemin, Versteeg, MacArthur and Armstrong are legitimate NHL forwards—sometimes playing at an elite level.

Bozak and a host of Marlies—Mueller, Aulie,  Holzer, Kadri, D’Amigo and others—represent future hope, as well.

But where are we right now, this season?  Are the playoffs still a real possibility- as the Leaf brass suggested was the case back during training camp?

Well, sure.  The “window” of opportunity, though, is not very big.  Three-game win streaks, as much as they generate good feelings, don’t help much when they are followed by a series of losses.

So the team needs, if the playoffs remain the obvious objective, to build on some moment—a big save at a crucial moment against a good team, a game-chaging hit, a late comeback, whatever—and do something special to not only get back in the race, but cement a playoff position.

Not to suggest this will happen (the Leafs have had opportunities to build on such moments many times this season, and have never quite made it to the next step…) but I believe that it can.


As I’ve suggested many times, the East is wide open.  Every team is flawed, many just as imperfect as the Leaf roster is.

If the Leafs could ever, consistently, receive the kind of goaltending that they got for a short stretch from young Reimer (easier said than done, of course), there is no reason they can’t win more than they lose down the stretch.

Are Florida, Buffalo and Carolina really better than the Leafs?  Arguably, Carolina may be stronger, but I don’t know for certain.  How good is Montreal, really? They have some talent, some willing players but like the Leafs, have a roster with holes.

Atlanta?  They’ve made huge strides in the past few months and have re-vamped their roster.  But we’ll see if they can keep it up for the long haul.

Yes, the Leafs could still sneak into the playoffs, though a more pessimistinc outlook would suggest the Leafs are now one point ahead of Ottawa- and that organization is about to be blown up at the end of the season.

Does it all matter?

Well, earning a playoff spot, and getting experience playing when it matters most, could only be helpful to this young roster.  It would given Wilson a chance to work in that environment for the first time with this group, and build on his years as a successful playoff coach.

Will it happen?

I have no idea.  But the point, I guess, is that it can.  If one of Giguere or Gustavsson (or Reimer, now) can really deliver, then it could happen. 


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