Going into this season, almost everyone (except Jeffler) talking around the Leafs expected big strides that would nonetheless leave them on the outside of the playoffs. On the site, there was a sense that the Leafs would be within range, but short, of a Wild Card slot.
After a sleepwalking tank year in 2015-16—which worked out perfectly, but did not lead to meaningful hockey—after falling off a cliff in 2015 and 2014, after mirage of 2013, we just wanted to be in the hunt with a good team.
So here we are.
The Leafs are 80 games in and have more points than any Leaf team since 2004. Every underlying number suggests they’re at least a decent team, albeit skewed towards offence over defence. On the final weekend of the year, they have two opportunities to win in. Most of us would have done cartwheels if we’d known that in September.
We have the best group of rookies in the history of the franchise. Our rebuild has gone brilliantly so far. And now we’re in a position to hope for something again. Unexpected expectations are a hell of a thing.
So let’s be honest about what we’re staring down.
If we lose, it’ll be a kick in the teeth. It’ll suck for a while. It’ll be a hell of a lot easier to get perspective on it than in 2013, and our front office probably won’t make a week of self-destructive errors to open the month of July. But if you’re actually invested in this team, you have to be honest about wanting them to get in.
That goes the other way, too. There’s no use hiding in preemptive despair, trying to tell yourself that you’re ready for the Leafs to lose as if it’s preordained, like we’re Sisyphus the hockey team. Fuck that noise. We’re here with a fighting chance. Maybe we win, maybe we lose, but we’re here and it’s all to play for.
In that and in other ways, this has been the best Leafs team to watch in a decade. It’s a team worth expecting something from. In the end, that’s a great thing to have again.
Go Leafs Go.
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