Barring a magnificent, barely imaginable miracle, the Maple Leafs will not qualify for the post-season.
They have won just two of their last 16 games in regulation. It’s tough to gain ground when you bank only six of a possible 32 points.
After a heady early and mid-season, the team and the millions of people who follow it have returned to walk the same barren patch of ground for the seventh straight year.
The bitter taste of seasons lost is back: one part disappointment, one part resignation, one part bile. Look not to your friends and family for support. Fellow Leaf lovers are catatonic. The haters, emboldened by the team’s free-fall in the standings, can’t shut up.
Much practiced, I have developed 10-sure fire tactics to spend a spring without the Maple Leafs in the playoffs. Let us hope it does not come to this.
- Go Jets. Be magnanimous. Who wouldn’t want to see the Jets in the post-season? The city is richly deserving. If you feel particularly benevolent you can endorse The Senators and Vancouver Canucks. There will be plenty of reason to hate them later on.
- Just a side note. Rooting for a new team when yours hasn’t made the playoffs isn’t unfaithfulness. There are encyclicals governing proper behaviour in these matters. In the spring and summer your relationship after losing your favourite team is a sort of temporary widower-hood. Think Ilsa Lund in Casablanca when she thought Viktor Lazlo was dead and took to freewheeling around Paris with Humphrey Bogart. Feel free to scout winning teams for players who could help the Leafs. In the business that is known as picking low hanging fruit.
- Do note how many people cackle over the Leafs latest failure. Remember what Gordie Howe used to do, memorize a number and wait years to get even. In the meantime, do prepare pithy answers such as: “yes, it has been seven years since my team made the playoffs but at least I have: (kissed a girl, avoided economic collapse, gotten kids through university, hiked the Bruce Trail, gotten my doctorate in quantum physics) in that time. Don’t forget the witty barbed conversation closer: “your kid still on probation” and “hey, heard they closed down your pyramid scheme. How much did your Mom lose?”
- Do think about the draft lottery and how good kingpin centre Mikhail Grigorenko might look as a Leaf.
- Don’t pull for your team to lose. Bad Karma. Trust the benevolent hockey Gods to bring you luck. Try not to ask them where they have been for the last seven years,
- Carefully fold your Lanny MacDonald and Rocky Saganiuk jerseys and put them in your bottom drawer. Ritualistic sacrifices might seem a good idea but you have kept those jerseys for decades. They deserve better than a fiery death. If every fan burned every jersey, tiny grey embers would fall at every house and farm. ..ah, hell. Burn’em. It has to help.
- Take comfort in the fact that Randy Carlyle is punishing the players in a way you never could.
- Note how the Binghampton Senators managed to win the Calder Cup last season. Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Kaspars Daugavins and Jim O’Brien each spent substantial periods of time in Bingo and the group has helped supercharge a veteran Senators roster. Once inserted into the playoff forge, what can you expect from Nazem Kadri, Marcel Mueller, Joe Colborne and Korbinian Holzer not to mention current Leafs Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin.
- Go ahead and fantasize about Rick Nash.
- Remind yourself the Leafs were far from a sure bet to make the post-season and the most bitter of disappointments will soon give way to the optimism of summer. Trust me, we’ve done this before.
A note to Steve the grammar critic. So true. When I speak to school kids and people interested in writing I stress the importance of being careful. The piece you read had 16 names, close to 100 facts and countless potential slip-ups. Names do vex me. Our blogs aren’t edited so you depend on the kindness of readers to help you out because writing Rockey Saganiuk instead of Rocky is so discouraging. Thanks for being helpful.