Last week a producer for the Fan590, a local Toronto sports radio network, was said to have organized a parade celebrating the Leafs victory. Presumably no parade occurred and the hype was simply sarcastic, but I do wish to go on record as saying the Leafs will make the playoffs.
The parade was facetiously reported during the height of the franchise's quagmire of a season, but the Leafs have won four of their last five hockey games and nearly managed an eleventh hour comeback in their loss to the Devils. They have fired one GM (though he had achieved the best winning percentage in recent history), because Toronto fans have waited forty years for the Stanley Cup and desperately want a shot at the playoffs.
Enter Cliff Fletcher. It’s not his hiring that has me suddenly optimistic; I thought they had a playoff team before the changes were made. But Fletcher's taking over makes it easier for me to go on record and predict an extended Leafs season.
Firstly, although Fletcher’s winning percentage was lower than Ferguson's, he led the team to the best playoff success they’ve had in the recent past.
Secondly I’m not sure Sundin will be traded before or at the deadline. If Mats reverses his stance and waives his no-trade clause, I believe Fletcher will gain more for the Leafs than prospects and draft picks. In other words, a Sundin trade will not signal surrender. If anyone can get full value for the superstar, it’s Fletcher, who was [in]famous for blockbuster deals during his first tenure in Toronto.
I am unconvinced that Mats is going anywhere. Despite speculation by some, Fletcher was brought in as much to convince the captain to waive his clause as for any other reason. I believe statements from Mats make it more likely that Fletcher will convince others to waive their clause and leave Mats in Toronto.
The tools are in place and some are clamoring for a complete rebuilding—several reporters asked about this at Fletcher's press conference. As I’ve said before and maintain now, Toronto is not a patient enough from the top down to rebuild from ground up.
The powers that be maintain the goal is to make the playoffs. This writer is not anxious to give credibility to Peddie and his ilk, but I do predict the team will make the playoffs, almost in spite of the board and its meddling.