If you look at the standings today, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference. In the midst of a four-game losing streak, they are looking up at precisely three of those teams. The Capitals, Rangers, and Hurricanes, are all there, looking down at the Leafs after they have beaten them.
The re-imagined divisions and conference alignments have meant a stronger field. The East welcomes perennial challengers for the Cup in the Detroit Red Wings. While not lighting the league on fire this year, they do represent another team that will block the Leafs in their quest for their yearly prize. That is of course, just sneaking into the play-offs, with the hope of pulling off a miracle.
Last year this very nearly happened before we, the die hard Toronto Maple Leafs fans, saw this.
Yes, the single most disappointing day of my (sports) life. A 4-1 lead lost in the waning moments of a game that was done; signed, sealed, delivered.
So forgive me for looking at this recent losing streak as a reminder of that torment; but let me be clear. This team will not win the Stanley Cup, and they will not even make the play-offs. This team is dead in the water, and when they look up at the standings, they can see why.
Any true contender is a contender because they beat the teams they are supposed to. It isn’t a question of will they or won’t they, they just win the games they should. As an example, lets look to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they are the most talented team in the NHL. Their record is, as of today, 32-12-2 giving them 66 points.
Contrast that with the Toronto Maple Leafs record of 21-20-5 with just 47 points. As we have just passed the midway point in the season, we can start to make concrete evaluations of how good teams are. The Leafs do not stack up in any measurable way to the Penguins or the Anaheim Ducks, or any of the upper echelon teams.
This year their playoff dream will fade, perhaps just after the Sochi Olympics wrap up. They will flounder and drop consecutive games regularly, they will dig themselves a hole too large to even consider getting out of. They will see their hopes of cashing in on a sudden resurgence fade.
Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they will rise up and make a run. Maybe they’ll surprise me and grab the 8th seed. Maybe they’ll win the Stanley Cup.
Or maybe they won’t. All I know is that this team is not going to get my hopes up, not this year.