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Looking for reader views: what could derail the Leafs’ fans optimism?

I certainly want to acknowledge ex-Leaf Wade Belak's passing.  We all will recognize this as another sad, sad day for hockey.  There are forums where the topic of why so many former players- especially "enforcers"- who have died too young will be debated.  With deep respect, I will leave it to those forums to comment more thoroughly on a very sensitive and difficult subject.)


Let’s be honest:  just like spring training in baseball, when it comes to hockey training camp every September, most fans want to believe (hope?) that things will be “better” this season.

This falls on the heels of the classic rallying cry (which sports fans emit at the end of every losing season) “wait ‘till next year…”

So yes, fans live in hope.  That’s what we do, especially in markets where the team we cheer for has not won a championship for a considerable period of time.

45 years ranks as considerable, right?

It’s not always easy for fans to stay loyal (imagine being a Detroit Lions fan—how many playoff games have they won in the last 50 years?) but here in Toronto, I’m guessing a only relatively small percentage of die-hard supporters have jumped off the ship in any real and long-lasting way.

If some of us do leave temporarily, something inevitably draws us back…a Dickie Duff, a Lanny McDonald, a Borje Salming, a Doug Gilmour, a Mats Sundin, a James Reimer...

In any event, I well recognize that optimism abounds at this time of year.  It's often unrealistic.  Almost everyone is healthy and ready for camp, we hear.  Fans in all 30 NHL cities think their team can make the playoffs, yet only 16 will.

Only one will win the Stanley Cup.

Here in Leafland, I sense that the majority of fans are truly optimistic, maybe more so than they have been in close to a decade.  Now, what I mean when I say optimistic may not be fully clear, depending on where each fan’s level of expectation is.  If you set the bar at just having a team that can compete most nights, that’s one thing.  A team that has a shot at making a run at a playoff spot, that’s another.  Thinking your team could actually go deep into the playoffs is a whole other matter entirely.

And we haven’t even touched on that level of expectation where a fan truly believes their team can actually win the Cup.

I will say this:  Toronto is an improved team.  We’ve all said it, discussed it, ad nauseam this summer.  (Yes, words can only take us so far, we need to see these guys actually play…)

But for all the optimism and hope, here’s my question (and I’m looking for the always thoughtful Vintage Leaf Memories readers here to provide some  solid responses): what could derail the optimism around the Leafs?

I’m not looking for you to be negative for the sake of being negative about the Leafs.  Rather, simply asking you to step back, be honest and personally assess what you think could happen that would make your optimism fade pretty quickly, if not entirely.

I know those who visit this site regularly know their hockey, so from here on, I’ve got the day off.  It’s your column.  Have your say…


  1. The big one is of course goaltending. If the netminding starts the season as porous as the calendar years 2005-2010 tended to be, another long season awaits.

    Injuries would be another biggie. Long absences from Kessel, Phaneuf, or Reimer could spell big trouble, unless players like Kadri, Schenn and Gustavsson unexpectedly leap forward in their development to become bona fide stars with the opportunity.

  2. A long term injury to Grabovski might hurt. They need the top two lines going to have a chance.

  3. Have to agree with Bobby Paradise, specifically an injury or significant lapse in performance from James Reimer would be THE event to put a damper on my optimism.
    The entirety of Toronto's depth at the goal-tending position, while hopeful and unquestionably better than recent years past, is still riddled with uncertainty. None of Reimer, Gustavsson, Scrivens, Rynnas etc. are proven quantities at the NHL level and I think Leaf fans know this.
    So, injury or poor performance for our current hope for Toronto's net-minding future is easily the biggest risk for lost optimism.
    That said there isn't much else that would affect my optimism, I love our depth at defence and we would still need to lose a number of forwards to injury for a significant period of time before I got worried on that front.
    All that being said, Go Leafs Go! Let's see if they can't pull out a playoff birth this season.

  4. I agree with Bobby Paradise and Ben - if Reimer starts the season a la Toskala a few seasons back, my enthusiasm will definitely be derailed. Not so much if it's an injury - there's not much we can do about that - but if it becomes clear that he can't handle the load (or top shelf glove-side shots). Going back to square 1 at this point would take a lot out of me.
    I'll also be disappointed if the defence regresses - heck, I'll be disappointed if anyone regresses! I'm definitely looking for, and expecting, improvement from where we left off last season.