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Playoff Bound: How the Toronto Maple Leafs Can Make the Playoffs in 2011

Bobby KezneikCorrespondent IMay 5, 2010

Many critics—also known as haters—around the league like to criticize the Toronto Maple Leafs on their below mediocre goaltending, their overpaid players (typically defensemen), and their moronic management.

Fundamentally, people detest the Toronto Maple Leafs' lack of success since either the NHL lockout—or the more fashionable year, 1967, the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won a Stanley cup.

But the truth is, even if Toronto were to make the postseason—or for that matter, win a Stanley Cup—people would still find a way to make others believe that the Leafs suck.

The actual truth is that Brian Burke has done a wonderful job with this club in his time here.

No, you do not need to point out that the Toronto Maple Leafs finished 29th in the NHL.

We all know that.

From the day Burke became general manager, he stated that this rebuild was not going to happen overnight. Of course, he was speaking in a figure of speech and meant that this rebuild wasn't going to be a one-year act.

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Burke also said this wasn't going to be a five year deal. Meaning that he is committed to turning this ship around in the next two seasons.

After one year with the club, Burke signed the best goaltender outside of the NHL. Burke signed a player that over 20 teams in the NHL showed interest in, Tyler Bozak. Burke drafted a player that was in the top five for scoring in the OHL this season (plus a shoot-out specialist) in Nazem Kadri.

He got rid of the two worst contracts with Toronto in Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala, in one deal. He acquired an Olympian-potential defensemen in Dion Phaneuf. The timing couldn't have been better, as Phaneuf's value is as low as possible right now.

The reason Burke gave away three draft picks for Phil Kessel was because, like he said, he doesn't have time for a five-year plan, and doesn't have time for these draft picks and prospects to develop to a full potential.

Summer 2010 may be the most crucial offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a very long time. Whatever happens in the months of July, August, and September—even a bit of June—can either make or break the Toronto Maple Leafs' 2010-2011 season.

I have full confidence in Burke's ability to improve the Blue and White's 2010-2011 campaign. 

He has a history of acquiring stars of the NHL, dating back to drafting both Henrik ad Daniel Sedin in the first round of the NHL entry draft. He was able to get Boston to give up their leading goalscorer at just the age of 21 for undecided and unproven hockey players.

He acquired Dion Phaneuf, who in November and December was Olympics-bound, and in January, prompted outrage wheh he did not make the team.

But when Phaneuf came to Toronto, it was all bash, bash, bash, and more bash.

Should Burke acquire either Bobby Ryan, James Neal, or Patrick Sharp in the offseason, as well as Colby Armstrong, who I am almost certain will come to Toronto, I don't see the Leafs missing the postseason come April 2011.

The youth and speed in Toronto is what puts a smile on my face more then anything when it comes to this organization.

Stack them individually and their core players are the future of not only the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not only the whole NHL, but of all sports.

They are dynamic, quick, young, physical, and are taught to play a full 200 feet of the game. They are like a machine designed to play this day's type of hockey in the NHL.

They can keep up, they have good chemistry together, and are basically like a well-oiled machine. If you disagree with me, here are some fun stats for you to follow...

The Toronto Maple Leafs were 6-3-0 in the preseason, and they played all their young stars in the preseason. When the regular season started, Ron Wilson went back to the old core group that has proved countless times it cannot succeed as a whole for any longer.

After the trade deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs were basically out of competition for the NHL postseason in April of 2010, so, Wilson went with his young stars again.

Since the NHL trade deadline 2010, the Toronto Maple Leafs went 11-6-3 to finish the regular season.

Combine that with the preseason, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have a record of 17-9-3 when the majority of their roster is their youth. Their penalty-killing immensely improved, as did their goaltending.

There is obviously work that is needed to be done this offseason, but I believe that Brian Burke will achieve his goals to bring in a top-line centre or a top-line winger, and a few second- to third-line players, to complete.

It should be a truly exciting roster to watch, come October 2010.

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