There is one thing that I have learned as a Leafs fan since the lockout: it is dangerous to hope. Once I graduated University (my thesis year happened to coincide with the lockout) I started to take hockey far more seriously, which was rather unfortunate because we all know how those Leafs teams have performed. All in all though, it has been a good time to become more serious about my Leafs fandom, in part because there's a lot more elbow room on the bandwagon now than back when the Leafs were good, but also because I think you can learn a lot more about hockey when you're watching a bad team get beat often. If you get to watch Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin every night, you see them do things that most hockey players aren't really capable of doing... and you know, it's possible to completely miss that point. I know I took Mats Sundin for granted pre-lockout, and even bought into the media's whole "he doesn't work very hard" for a little while. But the lockout and the poor teams has changed that. Now I appreciate the amazing players for being able to do what so few of their peers can, and I appreciate when I see a good, defensive play.

Now going into last season, I was high on the summer acquisitions and thinking PLAYOFFS!!!1 just like many of you others that were here at that time.  That hope turned out to be a bad thing.  I have never been so angry during a hockey season as I was last season.  What a bunch of losers.  They seemed like they should be more talented than the group we'd dressed the year before, but that hardworking, us against them effort that had personified the 2007-2008 team was gone.  My hopes were dashed and replaced by the realization that this was, by far, the worst Leafs team I had ever watched.  I would say that January 30th was rock bottom for me - it was the game in Toronto vs. the Canucks, and I had on my Leafs jersey.  When the Leafs took the lead and chased Luongo, I thought I finally had a silver lining to the season.  At least if I could brag to my husband about that one game, I would feel better.  Then, Raycroft came in, the Leafs fell apart, and I had to go to a dinner with a bunch of Vancouverites who didn't even care about hockey yet somehow all knew about the Canucks' come back, and they all picked on me about it.  Thank goodness for January 31st and the Phaneuf - Sjostrom and Giguere trades.

So this season, I am fighting hard to keep my expectations in check. Now, I may have a huge crush on Kris Versteeg and think that a whole season of the Bozak - Kessel magic should be wonderful. But I am also trying to remind myself of two things: 1. that we are a young team, and young teams are prone to breakdowns, so there will inevitably be some painful nights with games we should have won turning into losses. And 2. as glad as I am that we got a hard hitting, offensive defenseman, past Norris trophy candidate who is now our captain, our defense may still suck. If our goaltending doesn't have some miraculous performance this year, it's likely to be just another year of growing pains.

At least, this is what I'm telling myself to expect for the upcoming season.  In reality, I keep thinking "WOOOO KESSEL 50 GOALS!!!1" and "SCHENN SMASH!!!" and "GIGGY SHUTOUT!!!" and, of course "PLAYOFFS!!!!1"
Links below the jump.