Maple Leafs fans: Time to let go

Jun 26, 2013 by

Maple Leafs fans: Time to let go

Toronto Maple Leafs fans now have reason to stop mourning their historic collapse in game 7 of the first round of this year’s playoffs to the Boston Bruins.  The summer solstice has passed and summer has officially arrived, the NHL draft is nearing and the Leafs have already made an effort to improve their team, by adding Jonathan Bernier in goal. Also, there is an intriguing level of scuttlebutt in the air suggesting more impact deals are on their way.  Most importantly, satisfying the schadenfreude in some of us, the Bruins ironically blew a late 2-1 lead to lose the Stanley Cup final to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, in the very same arena that Toronto surrendered a 4-1 lead with less than 11 minutes to play the same day Chris Hadfield returned from space.  Although it’s difficult, as a fan, to easily surrender the sting of blowing such a monumental lead in such a short period of time with a second round berth at stake, but it’s comforting to know that one of the best teams in the game could similarly falter when the stakes are at their highest.  Sadly, it’s a pathetic silver lining one occasionally must hang on to help ease the suffering commensurate with being a Leafs fan.

The truth is most Leaf fans aren’t disappointed by the loss to the Bruins; it was how they lost in such an improbable and torturous way.  Realistically, the Leafs would not have gone much further in the playoffs.  Perhaps they could have beaten the underwhelming NY Rangers and maybe won a game or two against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but to think this team could have fared any better is simply fantasy.  The absence of Tyler Bozak in games six and seven, revealed how fragile they are at the center position, a weakness that surely would have been exploited had the Leafs advanced further into the playoffs.  He’s a good secondary player, but the severe drop off in face-off winning percentage, in his absence, was nothing less than embarrassing.  There simply wasn’t enough depth up the middle and the lack of a shut-down presence in their defence, if not addressed, will ensure the Leafs stay on the periphery among playoff contenders.  James Reimer was solid in his first playoffs and at times showed glimpses of elite goaltending, but when it mattered most he wilted much like the rest of his team. He’s deserving of a second chance, but the mere fact that Dave Nonis pulled the trigger on attaining a long up and coming starter reveals his own bias toward an alternative to Reimer.

It’s not like the Maple Leafs embarrassed their fans this year; they were a fun team to watch, played above expectation and scared the bejesus out of a true Stanley cup contender in the first round of the playoffs.  Players like Jeoffrey Lupul and Cody Franson emerged as legitimate long-term staples and Jake Gardiner showed flashes of a rising young stud defenceman. Phil Kessel continues to consistently produce and Nazm Kadri may be emerging into a bona-fide star; these are components this franchise and its fans can derive some measured excitement over.  It was a nice season to build confidence in a team that has sorely needed it, after a decade of pathetic on and off the ice personnel decisions.  Keep in mind it’s just a small step among the many that is required for the Leafs to build a champion, but you have to start somewhere.  In the interim it’s time to let go of the past and look forward to next season, where hopefully another key step takes place towards building a true contender.  If that shouldn’t happen, at least we can cling on to the fact the Bruins choked in the Stanley Cup final right?


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