Toronto felt like a different city on Saturday night. After beating the Penguins, a Leafs team led entirely by youths was on its way to the playoffs. A much needed full-season playoff berth not seen by the city in over a decade.
The mood was much different Sunday night.
After jumping out to a two-goal lead thanks to JVR rounding into Playoff JVR, the Leafs promptly blew it – losing their potential matchup with Ottawa in the process. Now they face the Capitals, a stacked powerhouse. It’s a sure loss.
Which is why this season can only be seen as a disappointment. The Leafs not only blew an easier matchup, but with three losses in their last four games, blew their chance at home-ice advantage too. A lot of people will point to the team going 14-5-1 in the final quarter of the season to make a big playoff push, but what’s the point of a big playoff push if you aren’t going to win every single game?
What kind of message does that send to fans?
I, of course, knew the Leafs were a playoff team a year ago. So them barely getting in, setting up a series in which they – at best – have a 40% shot of winning, can only be seen as a failure.
This is on everyone – the players, the coach, and management. If you’re going to get into the playoffs just to lose, you should have tanked instead. Added another top young asset to the organization. Stack the team for a few more years through the draft, and THEN go for it. Just look at the Oilers – they’re doing it the right way.
That’s not even mentioning that the Leafs are in the playoffs despite losing more games than they won – a flaw in the system that is robbing Leafs fans of the long-term success they deserve. They need to get a few more lottery picks before they can be competitive.
Becoming a good team is a process. And it’s very obvious that the Leafs ownership wanted the Leafs to make the playoffs as fast as possible. This is the same trap we’ve been falling into for the last decade. As a fan, it makes me sick. As a professional sports journalist, it makes me even sicker.
You should only make the playoffs if you are going to win the Cup – otherwise, there is no point. Instead, now I have to start paying attention to all of the players who might be available at the 17th overall pick. I should have been fantasizing about who the Leafs would draft 1st overall.
A frustrating end to a frustrating season.