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The Leafs can't win or lose properly, and it's not their fault

The Toronto Maple Leafs will finish their season with no less than 67 points. 2015 has not been kind to the team, but the organization's track record is showing a severe lack of commitment to its future.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Eight months ago there was hope that somehow the Toronto Maple Leafs would have a better year. Fewer injuries, a bit of luck on their side and steady goaltending. Few of those things happened, and here we are eight months down the road hoping for a better draft pick.

The Maple Leafs have an issue with taking the path of least resistance. October was a .500 month, November was a 7-4-2 month including the 6-2 loss to Buffalo and 9-2 loss to Nashville. December (6-6-3) was the beginning of the end. The hope that existed quickly disintegrated and festered into anger. A mediocre team will get you a mediocre draft pick and leaves you in the mushy middle moving forward.

The year 2015 was the year fans didn't expect to have, but embraced it with open arms when the light at the end of the tunnel looked like Connor McDavid. The Leafs managed one single solitary win in the month of January and the tank was on. Two regulation wins and one in overtime in February set the table and fan began to wring their hands. The hope at the beginning of the season was for the playoffs, fans once again found the same hope six months later for a kid they could possibly draft. Come April, the Leafs sit 27th with 67 points and two games remaining. They'll get themselves a decent draft pick considering how much talent is in this year's draft, but they still couldn't commit to the tank long enough to guarantee themselves McDavid or Jack Eichel.

It's one thing to be a middling team for years in search of players, but it has been far too long. There have been players in and out of the lineup, the city, who were pegged as unable to take the pressure of the city, or unable to fit in. Those were, for the most part, unfair labels. Making third-line players play first-line minutes and expecting them to produce the way they did for their old team is setting said player up for failure. The Maple Leafs are always looking to the free agent market and to trades to improve their organization the quick and easy way. The draft holds a lot more potential than the Leafs want to gamble on.

They've taken the same route selling fans on a five-year plan, but what they need to do is fill their organization with talent in the minors as well. A truly successful organization doesn't make the playoffs once. They're perennial contenders for years to come.

It's tough to continue to support a team that knows it doesn't need on-ice success to make money. For the first time in 13 years the Maple Leafs failed to sell out a regular season game. For the first time, the Leafs aggravated their fans to a point of exhaustion. Finally, after years of losing and leaving themselves on the outside looking in did fans choose not to spend hundreds of dollars to watch an unpredictable team. They chose to forgo the experience of watching a Maple Leafs game due to the continually poor on-ice product. It's a change the organization hasn't seen in 13 years. It's a sign that fans aren't going to watch a terrible team for outrageous amounts of hard-earned money.

For over a decade I have watched the Leafs be a fringe team. I have watched, 99 percent of the time on television, a team refuse to take the path guaranteeing a future. I have watched, like millions of others, a team refuse to better themselves and instead leave the season with a little bit of pride knowing they weren't the worst. Knowing they left themselves short of a playoff spot and well short of a decent draft pick. With a once in a generation athlete on the table, the Leafs surely didn't lose hard enough to give themselves a chance at McDavid. They gave fans one of their worst seasons including a baffling nosedive in 2015 and expect the fans to keep opening up their wallets for a team that never gets better. It's not going to happen.

As someone who watched the team for a living and continues to monitor the team's progress, or regression, rather, it becomes harder to stomach the team as the years go by. No longer am I fully invested in the season as I was even one or two years ago. I enjoy a great hockey game, I enjoy the Stanley Cup Playoffs more than any other sporting event. The greatest hockey you will ever see (besides Olympic) occurs every year in April and extends to June. If the Leafs aren't going to be part of that every few years, I have other teams to watch that are worth it. There is much better hockey to be watched through the season as well.

When the Toronto Blue Jays began their season Monday, I was excited to watch a team that had a clean slate and was going to be exciting to watch if nothing else. When the Maple Leafs finish their season on Saturday, they'll be forgotten until the draft and free agency. They'll reignite the hope that fans held eight months ago and with any luck impress only if for a month. If the Leafs continue to skate on by hoping their legacy will keep them afloat, it's not going to end well.