Here we are at the half-way point of the NHL season and it can be either simple or painful when trying to explain the Toronto Maple Leafs season so far. Depending on whether you are an optimist and view the Stanley Cup as half full or a pessimist and view it as half empty.
A pessimist would look at the standings and point out the fact that the team sits near the basement of the Eastern conference. A pessimist would realize they have no chance of reaching the post season where as an optimist would suggest that they are only a short winning streak away.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
A playoff berth is certainly within reach, yet it’s hard to imagine a team that cant seem to win two games in a row making up the necessary ground to do so. This situation really puts management in a bit of a pickle.
Should GM John Ferguson Jr. blow the team up as the pessimists would suggest?
Should he trade their long-time captain and the face of the franchise for draft picks and prospects and shoot for a lottery pick in next year's entry draft a la Philadelphia Flyers?
Or should they go the route of the optimist and stay the course, strive to reach the post season and win one for that same captain who has poured his heart and soul into this franchise?
So far this season, the Leafs have shown that they can compete with anyone and make John Ferguson Jr. and Head Coach Paul Maurice look like brilliant hockey minds. Then the very next night they turn in a stinker and have Leaf's nation calling for their heads.
JFJ has failed to provide Sundin with enough support and has handcuffed this team from augmenting what they already have due to long, expensive contracts given to mediocre players. Maurice has failed to motivate this team to play a full 60 minutes blowing third period leads on countless occasions. Unable to keep the team on an even keel, getting perhaps too high after just one win an underestimating opponents.
Under the Pat Quinn era, if the Leafs weren’t as skilled as their opponent, you knew they were going to show up and give the opposition a run for their money based on team toughness and heart. Just ask the Ottawa Senators during the playoff runs in the late 90’s early 2000’s.
However this team is not Pat Quinn’s but instead John Ferguson Jr.'s (and Richard Peddie’s, but that’s a completely different story for another day). There doesn’t seem to be the mental or physical toughness each and every night needed to make the post season let alone compete for Lord Stanley’s Mug. But I have seen glimpses of it, and I know it's there.
Will they rally, get their dismal Power Play going, which used to be their bread and butter and work together as a team to give captain Mats Sundin what he truly deserves, or will they waste an all-star performance by their captain and continue this bus ride to the basement? They have until February 26th to prove to their fans and themselves that they are not a sinking ship, but merely breaking the ice in their path, or there will be some serious changes made, both on the ice and upstairs.
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