The Toronto Maple Leafs have made the playoffs

“Now they come to centre ice. They Leafs slow to clear… they’re onside! Sundin tried to go in… he lost the puck and it was cleared away to centre. Look out, they’re out they’re again these Flyers are coming hard… SCORES!

That is it! Jeremy Roenick got a break. He come in, and beat Ed Belfour after the Toronto Maple Leafs did everything but win the hockey game in the last two shifts. It comes at 7:39 of the first overtime period. The Leafs stunned, their season over, and the Philadelphia Flyers will go on to meet Tampa Bay.”

Bob Cole, Hockey Night in Canada

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A lot happened there. I remember watching that game and being amazed at Sami Kapanen making it to the bench after being hit hard by Darcy Tucker. In today’s game, that’s a sure concussion and the play likely would have been called. Danny Gray had a post this summer about “the other uncalled high-stick” on Mats Sundin 

More importantly, it was the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs played a playoff game. That changes this season, as the Maple Leafs officially clinched a playoff berth Saturday night with a win over the Ottawa Senators.

The quality of the above video isn’t great. It’s real grainy and in standard definition. Youtube wasn’t even around when the Toronto Maple Leafs were last eliminated from the playoffs. The closest they’ve come is 2007 when the New York Islanders beat the New Jersey Devils on the last day of the season to take the last playoff seed and a series against the juggernaut Buffalo Sabres.

For the Leafs, though, since that Roenick goal, here are the season-by-season highlights:

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2004-2005 in Leafs: The NHL is locked out.

2005-2006 in Leafs: The Leafs lose Alexander Mogilny, Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts to become salary-cap compliant and struggle early in the season. Jean-Sebastien Aubin is called up in late March with the Maple Leafs at 32-32-6. The Leafs are seven points out with 12 games to go. They aren’t officially eliminated until Game 81 when Mikael Tellqvist gets in goal and the Leafs are beaten up 6-0 by the Buffalo Sabres. Falling out of the draft lottery, however, Toronto select Jiri Tlusty with the 13th overall pick.

2006-2007 in Leafs: Since then, the closest the Leafs have come. Leafs sign Pavel Kubina, one of five players (along with Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker, Mats Sundin and Tomas Kaberle) on a no-trade deal with the club. Toronto win an absurdly memorable 6-5 game against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 82, and have to wait the next day for an Islanders loss to the Devils to make the playoffs. John Madden scores two late New Jersey goals to tie it up 2-2. This is, as Danny said, “the Wade Dubielewicz Game”. However, the season’s biggest moment is Mats Sundin’s 500th goal, a hat-trick in overtime against Calgary.

2007-2008 in Leafs: The new ice-edge jerseys debut and the Leafs lose their tail stripes in what becomes one of the sillier looks in the league. At the draft, the Leafs trade three picks, including a first, for Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell. John Ferguson Jr. signs Jason Blake to a five-year deal. Blake is a 34-year-old coming off a career-high season in shooting percentage. Neither trades work out, and the Leafs finish 36-35-11. That’s “one game above .500” only in Gary Bettman’s universe. They’re 5th in the division, 12th in the Conference. JFJ is fired in January. Face of the franchise Mats Sundin refuses to waive his no-trade clause and plays his last season as a Leaf, scoring 32 goals and 78 points, both team-highs. Toskala stops 90.4% of shots.

2008-2009 in Leafs: Hope? Fletcher trades Bryan McCabe and buys out Darcy Tucker, ending the Leaf life of two of the “Muskoka Five”. He hires former San Jose Sharks bench boss Ron Wilson. Greg Pateryn is traded for a young Belarussian named MIkhail Grabovski. Brian Burke comes to Toronto, pledging to bring “pugnacity, testosterone, belligerence and truculence” to the Leafs and eradicate “blue and white disease”. Interim GM Cliff Fletcher had drafted Luke Schenn with the fifth pick, who debuts in Toronto. The team still finishes last in the division, and a Boyd Devereaux hat-trick in Game 82 takes the Leafs out of the draft lottery. Toskala stops 89.1% of shots.

2009-2010 in Leafs: However! The Devereaux hat-trick gives Toronto the seventh pick, and they miss out on Brayden Schenn out of the WHL and settle for a young man named Nazem Kadri. Burke trades Kubina for Garnet Exelby. Burke trades two picks for Boston holdout star Phil Kessel and signs high-profile free agents Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin He begins the season injured, and the Leafs lose their first eight games, falling out of contention early. Kessel will score 30, and the Leafs trade spare parts for Dion Phaneuf, and Blake and Toskala for Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The goaltending is too late to being fixed, and despite the Leafs being the fourth best possession team in the league, they’re 26th in save percentage. The Kessel trade is panned as the Leafs finish last in the East and Boston get to pick second, selecting Tyler Seguin.

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2010-2011 in Leafs: Burke makes his fatal mistake and trades away the players that made his team so good at controlling the shot clock a season ago. Viktor Stalberg is traded away. Garnet Exelby is traded away. They’re replaced by Colby Armstrong and Brett Lebda. Still without a goalie, the Leafs give up and trade away Francois Beauchemin and Tomas Kaberle before the deadline. A young goalie from  Manitoba, James Reimer, goes 20-10-5 in the last weeks of the season.

2011-2012 in Leafs: The Leafs’ pick, which is owned by Boston, is used on another Ontario-born player in Dougie Hamilton. The Leafs use remnants of the Kaberle and Stalberg trades on high picks Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy. Jake Gardiner, from the Beauchemin trade, leads defencemen in scoring replacing Kaberle’s production. Burke trades for John-Michael Liles, Cody Franson and Mark Fraser and re-ups Clarke MacArthur. Luke Schenn struggles away from Kaberle. James Reimer is concussed and Jonas Gustavsson is nowhere near his calibre. Ron Wilson is fired and replaced by Randy Carlyle mid-season.

2012-2013 in Leafs: Schenn is traded away for James van Riemsdyk. Leafs sign Jay McClement to try to shore up their penalty kill which was awful under Wilson. The NHL is locked out, and the Leafs are the only team to go without the playoffs in each season. The NHL returns for a 48-game season. Burke gets fired and is replaced by Dave Nonis. James Reimer solidifies the Leafs goaltending. Nazem Kadri goes on a shooting tear. Phil Kessel develops into an elite playmaker. The Maple Leafs win games despite being out-shot heavily. They flip the bird at my calculator and clinch a playoff spot on April 20, 2013, 3036 days after being eliminated by Jeremy Roenick in May of 2004.

Since then…

  • The Leafs make it through the entire papacy of Pope Benedict XVI without a playoff game. John Paul II was the pope last time around, and Pope Francis (presumably) will be around in May.
  • Three Presidential elections and inaugurations, including the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president.
  • Four Canadian general elections. Paul Martin wins a minority government in June of 2004, Stephen Harper wins minorities in 2006 and 2008, and a majority in March of 2011. The Harper Conservatives proceed to cut federal funding to sports bloggers.
  • Five different Olympic games. Highlights include Simon Whitfield’s silver medal in the 2004 triathlon in Athens, three gold medals in men’s and women’s hockey, Carol Huyhn in women’s wrestling in 2008 in Beijing, and, uh, trampoline in London in 2012.
  • -The entire world economy collapses in 2008 and 2009.
  • “Hey dude, boot up Kazaa and we can download this awesome cat video”
  • A girl in my dorm in my first year of university convinced me to join popular social media website “Nexopia”. I’ve since graduated, and I hope my Nexopia page has been wiped. I graduated both high school and university since the Jeremy Roenick goal.
  • Poland, Lithuanian, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus all join the European Union. Boy, that’s a great deal for ALL parties in retrospect.
  • YouTube and Twitter were created. Facebook in the spring of 2004 was open to students of Harvard, Columbia, Yale and Stanford.
  • Speaking of technology, there’s this nugget…

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  • The number one song in the United States was “Yeah” by Usher. The number one movie was Mean Girls.
  • Fill in your own. Or go have a drink for us. Congratulations, Leafs fans.

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