Hello fellow fans! I have been kicking around an idea for a post, but the more I thought about it the more ground I wanted to cover. Instead, I'll be putting out a series of posts to try and show the possible routes to Lord Stanley. Hopefully, this will help mitigate our reaction to our disastrous start this year as I tend to take the long view of things. I may post multiple parts on Fridays and I might not be able to post too often during the rest of the week. This is mostly a mental exercise to examine the options of the Leafs both now and for the next 5 years. Speculation based on information. Please contribute your ideas and insights.
Try and bring yourself back to the offseason, pre September. What were your expectations for this team? I believe some felt that we were going to make the playoffs and some felt that we were going to be horrendous... but I am pretty sure both those groups were in the minority.
Honestly, I felt that if everything went right for us this season, we would be set up for a chance at the playoffs. Not all of this depends on the Leafs. Let's not fool ourselves here, there are 14 other teams in our conference and 29 teams in the league and what they do has a pretty significant impact on our team's ability to be successful.
I think what got everyone fooled was the preseason. I believe our success planted the seeds of optimism and by the end of the preseason it had blossomed into full blown hope. With hope comes expectations, and with expectations comes the possibility of being let down. We (myself included) put too much positive spin on the Leaf's success in the preseason. As a group I am proud to say we are some of the most knowledgeable fans - especially on this particular site. We are all emotional beings and sometimes we let that side of us get carried away - we tell our brains to shut up and we listen to our hearts. This is not a bad thing, as it is our passion for our team that defines us as fans.
Did I imagine we would have such a bad start? No. Did I consider that possibility - I did, but my optimism could not be denied. I pushed those thoughts aside as unnecessary negativity bred from years of missed playoffs. I read somewhere 'Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.' This is actually very appropriate for us Leaf fans... we got a little too carried away in hoping for the best that we did not do all we could to plan for the worst.
When it comes down to it, we are one quarter through the second season of a retooling process - we still have four and three quarters more seasons of Burke's tenure and it is laughable that some of us are calling for his demise at this early stage. The same goes for Ron Wilson. The compete level of this team (except for that horrendous Minnesota game) has ranged from good to extremely high and that proves to me that this team has not quit on him.
We can rage all we want about poor officiating, missed calls, and more painful - blown calls. All of these the Leafs have encountered in spades, BUT those situations wouldn't have been nearly as damaging if the team had not had ridiculous defensive lapses that lead to goals. Poor officiating only compounded our problems, they did not lead to them. Hockey is like chess - it is not the great moves you make that win you the game, its your mistakes that cost you the game. How many time have we seen defensive lapses or the inability to finish ruin our chances at a regulation win? Too many. We need to make the best of the situation by learning from our mistakes and taking all the necessary measures to try and prevent those mistakes from reoccurring.
I have revised my expectations on the Leafs for this season - I now believe they will finish somewhere around 20th-24th - close to where they have finished in the past 4 seasons. The difference here is we are building towards something better, not trying to hang on with what we have.
Part 3 will be Changes in this Season
This is technically where this part ends, but read on if you want a bit of an editorial.
To those who go to the ACC - you paid your ticket price and are certainly free to boo as you see fit - My personal opinion is that I never quit on my team. Booing them is a symptom of that. No matter what certain members of the media say, the only real influence we have on the success of our team is the emotional boost we as fans can provide.
Put yourself in their skates. The team is not competing well, you have had a series of frustrating loses, you are almost trying too hard, you are second guessing your decisions, bad plays have led to horrible goals against.
What will make a more positive impact? A chorus of boos from your so-called fans - or, against all adversity, denying the mouthbreathers their satisfaction - a 'GO LEAFS GO' Chant. THAT is the proof of the true fan, not some long suffering hard ass that proclaims their love of the Leafs then does nothing but bash them at every given opportunity. Don't be a sheep, a blind follower - but if you are a fan, BE a fan! It is even more important to cheer on your team when they are doing bad - any bandwagoner can cheer when they are winning. I hear more cheering for the Leafs at just about every other rink in the NHL. No wonder they play better on the road.
Why would anyone proclaiming themselves a fan go to sit quietly drinking their $12 beer? I can sit at home quietly and drink a $2 beer - yet I still cheer, I still jump up when they score, I still curse and swear when they get scored on.
Maybe if they found a way to attach mic's to our TV's and broadcast our reactions simultaneously into the ACC during games...