Preseason has concluded for the Toronto Maple Leafs. After 9 games of juggling line-ups and testing their young guns, the Leafs have finished with a 2-6-1 record. However, this blog does not have the objective to bash the Leafs and bring the fan base to a heaving sigh. Instead, let's take a different approach. Let's go into the season with our heads high. Let's go into the season with an optimistic state of mind. Let's go into the season to watch some hockey!
These warm-up sessions have long been a deceiving affair. That's not to say the Leafs won't struggle like they have these past few weeks, but putting too much merit into these match-ups would be a mistake. After all, the intensity that engulfs the game of hockey is toned down in preseason. This alone affects the flow of the game, ultimately altering the final outcome.
Another important factor to consider is the Leafs' revamped line-up. Nearly half the roster is new faces, so chemistry has yet to be established at a comfortable level. That, and the Leafs are considerably younger than years past, so some adjusting may be in need.
While in the end goaltender Vesa Toskala will be praising his new defense, he too, like the rest of the club, is going to have to adjust to the new defensive system put in place by head coach Ron Wilson. At first glimpse, the Leafs appear to have learnt nothing, but a pattern has been followed throughout the past few weeks. One that has fought with the franchise many times in the past, and that is 3rd period collapses. When the Leafs learn to contain leads, they will change their fortunes dramatically. If the Leafs were graded after 2 periods of play, consistency would describe them more often than not. However, things aren't that simple for the 41-year Cup-less franchise, so some work will have to be done by Wilson and co.
Instead of moping over the possibility of an Ottawa Senators playoff quality team, let's go into the season with our minds open. If Wilson could sell the defensive system to the players, the playoffs are not a far cry. Achieving the fallow goal wouldn't snub the rebuilding plan either, as some valuable experience would be had from the wide-range of youngsters.
On the other hand, a season full of L's on the calendar would assure a quality prospect in a draft pool that is expected to be strong. This would further to the new era of promising youngsters that is beginning to re-ignite this fallen club.
No matter what the outcome, some interesting stories will be developing throughout the course of this season. And no matter what hardships the Leafs endure, it's refreshing to see a legitimate rebuilding plan in motion.
Let's enjoy this season, not only because it's hockey, but because it's a new page for a franchise in dire need of one.