You know, I'm not even upset. I haven't written about the Maple Leafs much this season, partly due to a Packers-induced joy coma, but also due to two warring feelings --- at first, there was simply nothing to write about, but once the Leafs hit their post-All Star Break hot streak, I didn't want to be a jinx with a "hey, the Leafs rock!" kind of blog. But, now that their near-impossible crack at a playoff spot has officially ended, I can officially get into how fun this team was to watch, particularly over the last few months. While it stinks that Leafs fans will have to face yet another postseason-less spring and more taunts from fans of ig'nant other Canadian franchises, no Toronto fan can be mad about how this season developed. Nobody expected a Leafs playoff berth this year, only progress, and progress has indeed been made.
In fact, what the hell, I'll make the prediction now -- the Leafs end their playoff drought next season. I will *finally* get to truly enjoy some playoff hockey for the first time since I graduated from university. (God, it's been so, so long.) If Toronto makes the tournament next year, it'll cut off their stretch of non-playoff seasons at six. Senators fans, you're at one right now and your team is a garbage pile. See you in 2017, when I'll be laughing and laughing.
James Reimer, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn, Nazem Kadri, Carl Gunnarsson and even the much-maligned Phil Kessel. A lot of NHL teams would like to have this core group of players on board. This isn't to say that a Stanley Cup is around the corner, but Toronto's cupboard is a lot less bare than it seemed seven months ago. It's a group that can score, hit, work hard and play with anyone. A full season with this bunch (provided Reimer doesn't turn into a Jim Carey-shaped pumpkin next year) is something to look forward to in 2011-12.
Keep this post bookmarked for next October when the Leafs start 0-6 and I'm calling for Ron Wilson's head. Again.