April 11 2016 05:08PM
Certainly some frightening moments down the stretch for Maple Leafs fans in this 2015-16 season, but the "goal", if you will, of finishing last overall for the first time in franchise history since 1984-1985 has been met. Back then, the team ended up drafting Wendel Clark 1st overall, & in his rookie year, "roared" to a NINE-point improvement after being 21st of 21 teams.
As noted, this was far from easy, and though the Leafs won but one of their first ten games this season, finishing 30th looked damned near impossible heading into January after a November/December in which they stunned all onlookers by performing at a 13-8-5 pace. How? What? Yeah, feels like forever ago, I know.
A season sweep over the Dallas Stars? Yes, did that.
A 6-2-2 run to start November? Sure, exactly.
December wins in St. Louis, Colorado, Long Island, and Pittsburgh? I'm telling you - it wasn't a dream!
But January's harsh cold and winds also brought the Maple Leafs back to a reality that November and December's results ignored. They weren't a very good hockey club, and, as importantly, nor were they intended to be.
April 05 2016 07:29AM
You've seen the promos on Sportsnet and CBC, and you've gotten the emails inviting you to playoff drafts, be they for brackets or for individual scorers. The 8-9 week odyssey that leads to a Stanley Cup Champion and awful, scraggly beards, facial cuts galore, and hackneyed debates about the order in which the Cup should be handed out amongst veteran players on the proposed winning team -- they're all upon us.
Despite the dream of equality and parity the modern-day NHL provides, and the overtime/shootout loss points tightening up the standings in both conferences, and making it difficult to either rule teams out of playoff races for the first 60-65 games or so and certainly leading up to the halfway point, it's equally tough to differentiate between the mediocre teams to the lousy ones.
There are powerhouses, no question. But what about the other end of the standings, and the teams that seem utterly incapable of putting together any kind of consistent window of winning, let alone qualifying for the playoffs?
March 30 2016 04:32PM
With the end of the regular season in sight, the Toronto Maple Leafs seem closer and closer to, at least, assuring themselves of a Top 5 pick in this summer's NHL Entry Draft. There's going to be attention, almost like never before, from fanbases of Canadian teams when the Draft Lottery happens. Not just because it's the first time in the post-1967 expansion era that there'll be no Canadian teams represented in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 1970, but the also because of the added intrigue of having the Lottery more egalitarian, if you will, and giving what we might deem "average" NHL teams who missed out on the playoff tournament by a handful of points a chance to cash in and get the first pick.
Given no team can fall further than three spots down the ladder, it's getting to be a reasonably safe conclusion the Leafs will have a draft pick in the Top 5, at the very worst, in a Draft that's not as top-heavy as last year with McDavid and Eichel. That said, scouts now seem to agree this class is deeper in the Top 10 than was forecast a year ago at this time.