Steve Minakakis is a Toronto Maple Leafs correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Steve's passion for hockey, especially the Maple Leafs, brings the hockey world alive with his unique style of writing. He is the creator and editor of TMLhockey.com. If you have any questions or wish to contact Steve, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maple Leafs aren't nearly as bad as their record suggests
Quite possibly one of the worst collapses in recent memory is that of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Two months ago the Leafs were in a respectable playoff position with hopes of playing in the post-season for the first time in almost a decade. However, a monumental collapse in February, that has continued into March as well, has left the Leafs stranded far from a playoff spot as they currently sit seventh last in the entire league.
North York - March 19, 2012 - Quite possibly one of the worst collapses in recent memory is that of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. Two months ago the Leafs were in a respectable playoff position with hopes of playing in the post-season for the first time in almost a decade. However, a monumental collapse in February, that has continued into March as well, has left the Leafs stranded far from a playoff spot as they currently sit seventh last in the entire league. With the win yesterday, Toronto's record is 31-32-8 with only 11 games left in the season. But are the Maple Leafs really as bad as their record suggests?
The Leafs only have three wins in their last 15 games, and many fans who were praising the team just a few months ago, are now turning against Brian Burke, with complaints that he hasn't assembled a good enough roster. In my opinion, such criticism is not fair to Brian Burke. Many are quick to judge, but have short memories. Before Brian Burke became the General Manager in Toronto, the teams top three forwards were Matt Stajan, Alex Ponikarovski and Nik Antropov. Now, our top three forwards are Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Mikhail Grabovski, a big improvement from the previous three players listed.
There is a simple way to sum up Toronto's woes this season. It isn't uncommon for a young team, who started out strong, watch their season crumble. This happened to the Leafs and they were unable to pull it back together. Add a coaching change and a new playing system and things get complicated even further. But are the Leafs a bad team? I don't think so. Sure, there are a few bad contracts on the team, but asides from those players, the Leafs are far from being a bottom ten team in the NHL. They may not be a Stanley Cup contending team, but they are definitely playoff contenders.
Things didn't turn out that well for them this season, and the Leafs find themselves in a familiar position in the standings, near the bottom. After the playoff hopes went out the window, I am glad the Leafs continued to lose. There is no point in winning here and there and finishing just a few points out of a playoff spot but not having a top ten draft pick. It seems most fans understand this, and remember those years of finishing a few points out after the last lockout, yet these fans are the same ones that criticize the Leafs for losing a bunch of games. You can't have it both ways!
So, I am looking forward to next season. A clean slate for the players to make up for the mid-season mistakes. A clean slate for the goaltending to step it up and for the defense to help the goalies out, instead of hanging them out to dry. All of this with a new coach and a new style of play, likely a more defensive strategy, and if all goes well, a high draft pick developing in the Leafs' system en-route to becoming a good contributor in the years to come.
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