The major Toronto sports teams all started 2013 with a lot of promise.
The Maple Leafs were knocking on the playoff door, the Blue Jays had made their big off season splash, the Raptors brought in Rudy Gay and the Argos had won the Grey Cup.
As a city we all had hope – but it didn’t last.
Here’s a look back at the year that was for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013 started with a bang as just six days into the year the NHL and the players came to an agreement to end the lockout. However things aren’t allowed to flow that smoothly in Leaf land, so three days later Brian Burke was fired as GM for reasons people are still wondering about.
In the shortened season the Leafs proved to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, finishing as the fifth seed ready to face the rival Boston Bruins.
I think we all know how that went.
Pegged as an underdog the Maple Leafs were supposed to just be happy to be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. They quickly fell behind 3-1 in the series and most were ready to show them the door.
Except the Leafs showed heart and clawed their way back. They won games five and six by only a goal apiece. With the series tied 3-3 most still thought the Leafs were in trouble.
5:29 into the third period, Nazem Kadri scored to put the Leafs ahead 4-1. It was over.
With James Reimer in net and less than 15 minutes to go there was no way they could lose, right?
Even when Nathan Horton scored with 11 minutes to go, the Leafs still looked poised to exceed all expectations and make the second round.
Milan Lucic scored though and was followed seconds later by Patrice Bergeron, sending the game to overtime. Bergeron finished the Leafs off with his second goal of the night six minutes later.
To rub more salt in the wound the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final.
It wasn’t all bad though, as the Leafs started this season red hot, vaulting into the lead in the Eastern Conference and helping their fans forget the playoff disaster.
Since then early optimism has faded as their poor play has now dropped them down to seventh in the weak Eastern Conference.
But 2014 is a fresh start of sorts for the Leafs. With 20 games to go before the Olympic break in February, the Leafs play Eastern Conference opponents 15 times.
Nine of those games are against teams below the Leafs in the standings.
So it’s not unrealistic to think the Leafs still have a very strong shot at making the 2014 playoffs, where the hope will be once again that hot goaltending and a bit of truculence means the Leafs could make some noise.
However at this moment the Maple Leafs are the seventh seed and would face, you guessed it, the Boston Bruins.
There’s time to avoid that though, time to climb up the standings and get some much needed home ice advantage. There’s time for injured players like Dave Bolland to return and time for the young defence to get better.
So maybe the fan outlook for 2014 will be better than this year.
Because in the case of the 2013 season fan reactions were simple to see. From hope to nope.
Tags: Toronto Maple Leafs