For five years now, around this time I eagerly anticipate the upcoming NHL hockey season, with what retrospectively seems like foolish optimism. This optimism on an annual basis remarkably convinces me that my pride and joy (The Toronto Maple Leafs) will have a real shot of making the playoffs. Call it excellent team marketing skills or a love blinded fan base, either way for the past five seasons the only true name we can give this phenomenal commitment that plagues the foresight of fans in Leaf Nation can be simply regarded as smoke in mirrors. The mirrors however, are shattered every year by a different rock, last season this happened as quickly as the first 13 games. Whether it be offense, defense or goaltending the Leafs have fallen short each year.
Although the cool-aid looks so tasty this year, I am fighting temptation and I will say the Leafs fall short of the playoffs once again (9th or 10th). I have been a Leaf fan all my life, so it pains me tremendously to accept defeat before the season has started, however, I just don't see our offense being strong enough to pull us through. The old saying goes you need a good offense to have a good defense and vice versa. Well truthfully the problem with the teams the Leafs have put together in the past few years was a lack of balance. One year we're lacking on d, the next we're lacking up front, these leaks lead to an endless game of patch here, leak springs there, patch leak there and leak springs here. It's a never ended battle that Leaf GM's have faced since before the lock out. I will admit it does seem Burke has figured out the problem which has always been the problem here in Leaf Nation and that is the lack of a solid core of developing prospects.
With preseason roughly a week away I must say I am excited. The "what ifs" are endless with such a young and potential filled youth. The Leafs seem to have an excellent defense on paper and a 1 to 2 punch in goal that can quite possibly do exceptionally well. The reason why I am reluctant to predict a post season birth for our beloved Maple Leafs is simply because they have far to much to prove before anyone should be making bold or rash promises/predictions (cough Dion).
I will say however, I continue to eagerly anticipate this up coming season because I believe in Burkes plan (minus giving up two firsts and a second). I do feel Burke has put in place an interesting group of youth that have the ability to surpass all expectations, which the Leaf teams of past have sincerely lacked. All that I can ask you my fellow Leaf fans is, don't hold your breathe. Prepare yourselves for the worst, but of course hope for the best.
Go Leafs Go