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1967 - or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Drought

Ed.'s Note: 1967ers' diary on the year of Canada's Centennial, the Maple Leafs, and championship droughts helps to put the boot in to the insult of 1967. So it's been promoted.

1967.

You can't get away from it, not as a Leaf fan.

Whether it comes from a troll, a hyper-partisan, a casual fan or one of our own sports media types, no discussion of the Leafs can proceed without its mention.  It's like the Leafs version of Godwin's Law. 

But here's the crazy thing (sit down, everyone, this is a real shocker) - there is nothing about the Leafs' drought that is either unusual or unexpected.  This is in part the product  of a 20-year period of bad ownership, but it is primarily the expected result of ANY team that plays in a 30-team league.  Long droughts are not the exception.  They are the norm.  The only reason the Leaf drought is longer than most other teams is that the Leafs themselves are an older franchise.

That's it.

Consider: Of the 30 teams this year, even with the parity in the league, there are maybe seven or eight that really have a shot at winning.  Of those, there are about three or four front-runners and the others need to get lucky.  This will always be true. 

The teams that are strong (save for Detroit, for the moment) are all on an arc that will give them maybe half a dozen years of competitiveness, then they'll slide back a bit, re-tool and take another run.  The process of retooling generally will take 3-5 years, depending on conditions.  In all, it's typically a cycle that takes 10 or more years to fully play out.  Even teams that appear to be stuck in mediocrity forever are really on this cycle.  It's just that their peaks and valleys are neither as high nor as low.

This means that if all goes well, a team gets a period of about 5 years out of every 10+ in which they get to take a run.  If they don't happen to have enough superstars to make them one of the top three, or if they get the wrong player hurt at the wrong time, they will miss that window and it's a good ten years before another chance will come.  Throw in a bad period of ownership and you miss a cycle and suddenly that 10 year time frame becomes 20 or more.

The Leafs have had four chances in the past 20 years to get to the Final.  1993 was probably the best of them, and they were hosed by a bad call in Game 6 and got beat by the best game of Gretzky's career in Game 7.  In 2003 they had another real chance when facing Carolina, but mishandled the return of about 5 injured players and lost it.  In 1994 and 1999 they were simply outplayed.  This is how a drought that stood at 25 in 1992 now comes to stand at 41 in 2008.  Looking at the rebuild process, 2012-13 isn't an unreasonable estimate of when they might get there again.

The Leafs aren't alone in this, not by a long shot.  Look at this (this list counts seasons rather than years):

Chicago Blackhawks - 46 seasons
Toronto Maple Leafs - 40 seasons
Los Angeles Kings- 40 seasons*
St. Louis Blues - 40 seasons*
Buffalo Sabres - 37 seasons*
Vancouver Canucks - 37 seasons*
Boston Bruins - 35 seasons
Washington Capitals - 33 seasons*
Philadelphia Flyers - 32 seasons
Phoenix Coyotes - 28 seasons*
New York Islanders - 24 seasons
Calgary Flames - 18 seasons
Edmonton Oilers - 17 seasons
San Jose Sharks - 16 seasons*
Pittsburgh Penguins - 15 seasons
Ottawa Senators - 15 seasons*
Montreal Canadiens - 14 seasons
Florida Panthers - 14 seasons*
New York Rangers - 13 seasons
Nashville Predators - 9 seasons*
Dallas Stars - 8 seasons
Atlanta Thrashers - 8 seasons*
Minnesota Wild - 7 seasons*
Columbus Blue Jackets - 7 seasons*
Colorado Avalanche - 6 seasons
New Jersey Devils - 4 seasons
Tampa Bay Lightning - 3 seasons
Carolina Hurricanes - 2 seasons
Anaheim Ducks - 1 season
(* Never won.  Ever.)

The Leafs have a LOT of company, and many of the teams closest to them have never won it at all.

"Ah," says our troll/fan/media type, "but the Leafs haven't even made a Stanley Cup FINAL since 1967.  Now THAT's a disgrace."

Well, I suppose it is.  But at the same time, is there any among us who actually believes it would have made a difference in the play that 1967 gets?  Say, for example, that the Leafs had made the Final in 1993 and lost (of course they wouldn't have, but just say for the sake of argument that they did).  All that would happen is that the goalposts would immediately move, the Finals appearance would cease to matter (except for that they'd only have made one, and that fact would be trotted out all the time) and the focus would be on what really mattered - the lack of Championships.

Let's see the list for seasons without a trip to the Final:

Toronto Maple Leafs - 40 seasons
St. Louis Blues - 37 seasons
Phoenix Coyotes - 28 seasons*
New York Islanders - 23 seasons
Boston Bruins - 17 seasons
San Jose Sharks - 16 seasons*
Chicago Blackhawks - 15 seasons
Montreal Canadiens - 14 seasons
Los Angeles Kings - 14 seasons
New York Rangers - 13 seasons
Vancouver Canucks - 13 seasons
Florida Panthers - 11 seasons
Philadelphia Flyers - 10 seasons
Washington Capitals - 9 seasons
Nashville Predators - 9 seasons*
Buffalo Sabres - 8 seasons
Atlanta Thrashers - 8 seasons*
Dallas Stars - 7 seasons
Minnesota Wild - 7 seasons*
Columbus Blue Jackets - 7 seasons*
Colorado Avalanche - 6 seasons
New Jersey Devils - 4 seasons
Calgary Flames - 3 seasons
Tampa Bay Lightning - 3 seasons
Edmonton Oilers - 2 seasons
Carolina Hurricanes - 2 seasons
Anaheim Ducks - 1 season
Ottawa Senators - 1 season
(* Never made it)

So yes, there atop the list sit the Leafs.  What that says to me is that since the Leafs have never had the team to win it all, then they've also never been the Cinderella team that comes out of nowhere to make the Final.  Cinderella, of course, can get to the ball sometimes, but she doesn't win.  The only time a Cinderella team wins a Cup is when there are two of them.  And without winning a Cup, what have you accomplished?

For what it's worth, though, the Leafs haven't LOST a Stanley Cup Final since 1960 - that's 47 seasons of unbeaten championship play, and nobody can touch that one....  ;)

So there you have it.  The drought is nothing unusual.  In fact, it's the nature of the beast.  20 years from now, a 40-year drought will be nothing uncommon.  At least 8 teams will be in one.  Of course, by that time the Leaf drought could be at 60, and boy, how we'll all hear about it....

(Lists compliments of wikipedia.  Isn't everything?)

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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