Toronto Maple Leafs – A Moment to Reflect

William Wilson March 24, 2014 1
Jonathan Bernier in net for the Toronto Maple LeafsDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America

As the Toronto Maple Leafs move towards the close of the 2013-2014 regular season, there is both reason for optimism and pessimism in Leafs Nation.

Since the team has been bombarded by negative news over the past two weeks, this may be the easiest place to start:

  • Big off-season acquisition David Clarkson has been an absolute bust so far
  • The Leafs have lost five games in a row and have shown few signs of being able to turn things around
  • James Reimer’s struggles in net continue
  • Jonathan Bernier might not be available to play until later this week
  • Questionable defence has seen the Leafs concede the first goal in their last seven games
  • Once sitting near the top of Eastern Conference, the Leafs have suddenly (and rather dramatically) dropped to the last Wild Card spot
  • Statistically, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals – the two closest teams to Toronto in the race for the final playoff spot – have a better chance of reaching the post-season than the Leafs (i.e., Toronto may hold the edge in points right now, but they have more games left in the season to play)
  • Toronto’s next game is tomorrow night against the St. Louis Blues, which will almost certainly prove a difficult and punishing matchup

In short, there’s plenty of reason to think that the Leafs’ season may be over prematurely. There’s little time and space left for them to make mistakes, but they only seem capable of making mistakes these days.

Having said this, it isn’t all doom and gloom in Leafs Nation. Despite the gathering clouds, there’s still some signs of sunshine on the horizon. Here are some positive things to consider:

  • The return of Dave Bolland, which adds depth at center
  • Breakout campaigns for Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk – the driving engine of the Leafs’ offence
  • Statistically, the Leafs are highly unlikely to lose every one of their remaining games this season (they simply have too much offence for that!)
  • A potential franchise starter in Bernier
  • Strong signs of growth in Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly (I can see these guys anchoring the Leafs’ defence corps in the near future)
  • The Leafs still hold the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference
  • Compared against Columbus and Washington, Toronto has an (arguably) easier path to the playoffs
  • They have the chance to steal two points from Detroit on Saturday
  • Five of their next nine games will be played at the Air Canada Centre where the Leafs are 22-13-1
  • Reimer has overcome adversity throughout his young career
  • The Blues have struggled somewhat over their last thee games, allowing nine goals over than span

What does all this mean? I’m not sure. How does it all balance out? I cannot tell you. However, it is reason enough to hope that the Leafs aren’t done yet and that there are still three weeks of exciting (and meaningful) hockey ahead of them!

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