The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the midst of a mighty implosion the likes of which will be talked about for decades to come as they went from having a 90% chance of making the playoffs to currently being on the outside looking in with only 6 games left in their season.
If the Leafs win all of their remaining games, which is possible despite the fact they play the Boston Bruins they are in but if they should stumble and fall it will be must see T.V. for leaf nation. If you thought watching Rob Ford was fun and entertaining then cheering for the Leafs slide to continue is worth the effort. At a minimum it will give the talking heads on the radio and TV shows enough fodder to keep the Leafs in the headlines for the entire summer.
If the Leafs continue to plummet in the playoff race like leaves falling from the trees during a fall wind storm the over reactionary fan with too much time on their hands will demand that management take a ‘leaf blower’ to this squad with head Coach Randy Carlyle being the first leaf to fall.
Dave Nonis with his new contract in hand and in year two controlling the destiny of this club seems too pragmatic and even keel to go down that path. The fact is that if the Leafs fail to make the playoffs it will not be a shock to those in the know since the Leafs over achieved during the season.
The Leafs have relied too heavily Jonathon Bernier to snatch victory upon victory from the jaws of defeat as the team has been consistently out shot all season long and has on far too many occasions forgot to play defense.
The fact is that despite this ‘blip’ should the Leafs stay the course with some minor tinkering they can become a playoff contender as very few teams have the luxury of turning to a Kessel or a Van Riemsdyk to call upon.
They also have a bona fide starting goalie in Bernier and Morgan Reiley looks to be a future all-star not to mention Captain Phaneuf who despite the criticism heaped upon him, some warranted, is a capable player that plays valuable minutes.
The list of other positives includes Dave Bolland (when healthy), Mr. Lupul and Dave Clarkson if he ever shows up to play. The elephant in the room is the coach who the players may have tuned out as he in turn has no answers, which is not a good sign for his future with the club.
The Leafs despite their recent slide and lack of commitment to defense are closer to the playoff line than many think ,not to mention the fact they are light years ahead of the bottom feeders in the eastern conference. No matter what happens this season their future is bright.
However, don’t count them out just yet as the Leafs have an opportunity to turn their fortunes around with four of their next six games being against non-playoff teams. The Flames, Jets , Panthers and Senators are all jockeying for a better draft position rather than wins so they are ripe for the picking.
The only playoff teams they play are the Bruins and Lightening but the Leafs are capable of beating both those teams provided Coach Carlyle can get them to put their heads on straight and get them focused on the task at hand, which is to take it one game at a time.
If they should pull off a Maple Leaf miracle and make the playoffs it will catapult this team into the next phase of their rebuild and erase the memory of their game seven collapse in Boston. If they don’t then Dave Nonis will handle it the way he handles all adversity by putting a positive spin on the situation and maintaining that this is just a bump on the road to Stanley Cup success.
Either way the future is bright for this club.