'Til Next Year, Toronto
When Shakespeare said "Be not afraid of greatness," he was referring to everyone except the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs are full of promising talent, but they have trouble showcasing it effectively. On most occasions, they give up and drown in the Pressure Pool, also known as the Air Canada Centre. This inevitably destroys any chance of achieving the greatness they deserve.
Not winning the Stanley Cup every year isn't a crime, but failing to make the postseason for four consecutive seasons is; frankly it's the most plausible explanation as to why the Leafs have denied themselves of a Cup opportunity thus far.
Despite what could have been, however, Toronto has fulfilled an adequate amount of effort and fortitude in the 2008-2009 season with a 34-35-13 record. They finished with 81 points while standing 13th on the Eastern Conference spectrum, and managed to put up a good fight in the process.
Fans cannot dwell on the past. Although greatness was put aside for the time being, there is much to look forward to when it comes to the blue and white.
The future looks bright with GM Brian Burke and head coach Ron Wilson on board, who both bring a substantial amount of leadership and guidance to the young Maple Leaf group.
This year was a good representation of that. They taught players, and in Burke's case, brought in players to aid in the reconstruction and production of the team.
Ron Wilson's experience was shown immensely through the effort of the team this year. Players were able to learn and get better every game; the stats of the three top goal-scorers are proof of this.
Jason Blake(25G 38A 63P), Alexei Ponikarovsky(23G 38A 61P), and Matt Stajan(15G 40A 55P) all had breakthrough seasons this year. Blake, who started off a bit shaky in the beginning, came back and played superbly, while Ponikarovsky and Stajan both tripled their point total from last year and had their best season yet.
Instead of creating theories as to why the Maple Leafs didn't make the playoffs, there now needs to be a focus on creating strategies to prevent the possibility of history repeating itself.
Consistency, perseverance, and passion are three key components that must be present at all times on the ice. The Leafs have a very unnatural love affair with inconsistency which needs to be controlled and changed. They need to alter the way they play the game in order to be successful next season.
Memo to the 2009-2010 Leafs: Make drop passes confidently and make sure there's someone behind you to take it, go in deep and keep an eye out for rebounds, don't take stupid penalties, improve your powerplay, and cut down the number of turnovers you create in each game.
Believe it or not, there has to be a sufficient amount of improvement before the Leafs go anywhere near a Cup, yet the idea can't be disregarded all together either. Things need to get done in the offseason so that the team has a solid plan to start from and build on.
Unfortunately there's not much we can do now but await the arrival of the 2009-2010 season. Old jerseys are going to get tossed and new ones are going to be put on. The fate of the team is now in the hands of its fans and management. It's going to be a new team, a new time.
Who stays and who goes will always be a part of the game. It's all about separating the pretenders from the contenders now. The rest is just ice.
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