Despite Thursday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs will more than likely make the playoffs. In fact, it would be shocking if they didn’t.
The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ horrific history, especially during the last 13 years, has obliterated any optimistic thought floating through the psyche of their fan base. Instead, any optimistic — and more often than not rationale — thought is quickly dismissed with one common statement, “but, this is the Leafs we’re talking about.”
Yes, this is the Leafs we’re talking about, and no, this Leafs team is nothing like the past ones. Look, I understand the reason for concern. I get that you’ve seen this script play out before and this organization will find a way to blow it, or to choke, or however you like to describe their long history of failures. I get it.
But let’s keep things in perspective here. The Maple Leafs are still in control of their own destiny and they have a 91.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to MoneyPuck.com.
The Leafs biggest threat is the New York Islanders, who own a 6.35 percent chance of making the playoffs, while the Tampa Bay Lightning own a 2.1 percent chance. Mathematically, the odds favour the Leafs.
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On top of their favourable odds, Toronto only needs two points to clinch a playoff berth, which could come in the form of a win, or two overtime losses, while the Islanders and Lightning need to win out. Even one point could be enough for the Leafs to clinch if the Islanders and Lightning lose a game.
Either way, it would be an epic collapse by the Leafs if they miss the postseason, especially since they haven’t lost four consecutive games in regulation all season and their last four games were all at home, and their final two games will likely be against teams who are resting their important players.
I know what you’re going to say, “but this is the Leafs we’re talking about, Chris.” Again, I understand that and I’m sure the players do too. Let’s face it, the biggest threat standing in front of the Leafs’ postseason aspirations is the Leafs themselves.
From the players to the coaches, to the scouts and executives, this entire organization is aware of the Leafs’ history. They’re aware of the consistent failures. They know this organization has constantly disappointed their fans.
That awareness is likely a big reason Brendan Shanahan gutted this organization when he arrived, and gutted might be an understatement. He got rid of coaches, scouts, players, executives, public relations staff, anthem singers, you name it, Shanny changed it. Heck, he even repaired relationships with Leaf icons like Dave Keon. Now there’s only one thing left for him to change. Their reputation.
With only two points left to get, there’s no reason to think a team who just came off an 11-2-1 run can’t secure one final victory against two teams (the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets) who have little to play for and will likely be resting their starters in order to prepare for the postseason.
If the Leafs somehow don’t make the playoffs they will only have themselves to blame. Unfortunately, though, the overwhelming disappointment that is sure to follow an epic collapse would cast a dark shadow over what has been a remarkable season.
This team has a chance to banish that dark shadow, however. The way to do it is simple — just win. Truthfully, that’s all the Leafs need to do to not only make the postseason for the first time in an 82-game regular season since 2003-04, but it would also help change the narrative of this organization and shine light onto Shanahan’s vision of the Toronto Maple Leafs.