After last nights embarrassing loss to the Boston Bruins I asked myself, "should we really be surprised?" Ofcourse we can be dissapointed, but surprised? I don't think so. This time last month this team was in complete turmoil! We had only won two games and were wondering if this could be our worst season ever. Luckily much has changed since then.
Saturday night's 7-2 loss in Boston was the Leafs 28th game of the year. This puts them one third of the way into the season. If we break down these games into thirds what do we find? What I see is a struggling franchise making small improvements.
We all know how this team started the year. One win in nine games. The second nine weren't much better. They managed 2 wins. Since then however, the Leafs have been quite respectable posting five wins in nine games. Maybe all this means nothing, but I think it shows a team that is slowly, but steadily, improving. This brings us back to last nights game. The 7-2 score was actually quite flattering to the Leafs. They didn't score until well into the third period. It was disappointing because a win would have given us our first winning streak of the year ( no, two wins in a row is not a streak).
It's not surprising because, while the Leafs have been quite entertaining of late, they still have only managed to win eight games in twenty eight. These are not the stats of a contender. Boston on the other hand is a contender. Even with the injury problems the Bruins have faced they still have almost twice as many wins as Toronto and sit third in the conference. The Bruins are a team with legitimate stars at every position, a well stocked farm, a wealth of draft picks and a history of using them well. The good news for Leaf fans is it wasn't that long ago, that Boston was exactly where the Leafs are now. The unfortunate part for Leaf fans is they were right there with them, but we'll leave that for another post.
Despite our record of futility since the lock out, there is reason for hope in Leaf Nation. We have one, new, legitimate star in Phil Kessel. We've managed to resist panicking and trading our other star, Tomas Kaberle. The Monster will get healthy and looks like he can be our goalie of the future, and we have at least one blue chip prospect in our system with Nazim Kadri. Next year Luke Schenn will be over the sophomore jinx and maybe one of Bozak, Hanson, Stalberg or Gunnarsson will be living up to Brian Burkes lofty expectations. We don't have to be reminded that we are short on draft picks for the next two years, but so far Kessel has looked great and maybe even worth the price. I'm still undecided about whether that deal should have been made, but Kessel is quickly winning me over. Besides with the recent trade of Tlusty for a first round prospect it went a long way to replenishing the farm. Tlusty was never going to amount to much here and Paridis has good upside as well as being a Burke type player.
None of this means the Leafs will win the Cup this year or next or even the year after. It doesn't mean they'll be playing in June. It does mean we will have more nights like last night, but with some more good moves and a lot of patience, Leaf Nation will rise again.