If you are one of those Leafs’ fans that does nothing but complain about how 1967 is so far in the rear-view mirror that no one can even see it anymore, don’t bother reading any further. You’re not going to like it. Why are so many Leafs’ fans so bitter? Why, when Toronto falls behind in a game by a couple of goals, does Twitter get flooded with "Oh ya, same old Leafs" tweets? Why, when Brett Lebda coughs up the puck, is he villified more than O.J.? Why can’t Mike Komisarek have one bad shift without every chimp with a keyboard hammering out their hate? These guys are not horrible hockey players. They are elite professionals, but Leafs’ fans seem completely unwilling to look at the big picture when it’s easier to simply spew complaint.
I’m not going to try and analyze the toxicity of Leafs’ fans opinions. Or the fact that they are the most unobjective group of followers in, oh, I don’t know, the world. What I want to point out, to those whose eyes are open enough to see, is that this NHL season for Toronto has been a pretty exciting ride.
No NHL team is perfect. No NHL team is ever going to be perfect. And I always think it’s important to remember that this is the entertainment business. There’s a highly quantifiable success component to it, but it’s still entertainment. Plain and simple. These guys are paid to put on a show. A winning show is often a lot more fun to watch than a losing one, but it’s all a show.
Who thought the Leafs would still be in the race in late March? Do NOT put up your hand. I cannot recall a single"expert" who called for the Leafs to make the playoffs. Yet, here we are. Toronto is seven back with six to play. And there next game, on Tuesday, is a pure four-pointer against Lindy Ruff’s Buffalo Sabres.
The last time the Leafs played the Sabres, we declared that James Reimer would have to outplay Ryan Miller. He did. Toronto won. Same applies for this game Tuesday. The Leafs’ problem is that this game is just as big for Buffalo as it is for Ron Wilson’s boys.
The point is that the Leafs have done a great job of entertaining their fans this season. They’ve displayed rookie excitement in Reimer and, to a lesser degree, Nazem Kadri. Dion Phaneuf seems to have returned to his bone-crushing self. Luke Schenn has proven he belongs as a leader on this club.
Up front, honestly, there have been a few disappointments. Even though he’ll get thirty, Phil Kessel has disappointed many. But Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong (before his foot injury) have all over-achieved up front. So have lesser lights Tim Brent and Darryl Boyce.
And these forwards alone are a far cry from the under-achieving, over-paid bunch of floaters that pervaded the Leafs’ forward units for years and years. That alone made this season successful.
Of course we all wish the Leafs had reached the postseason. Of course we all wish they had orchestrated one of the biggest first-round upsets in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But they won’t. Not this year.
But that does not mean it wasn’t a successful season. And it sure as heck doesn’t mean Toronto Maple Leafs’ fans shouldn’t enjoy what the blue and white have delivered this season.