The world did not end, hell has not frozen over (although it is pretty chilly here in Ottawa today) and both are clear indicators that Toronto will not win the cup this year.
Right now it is hard to measure the… soul crushing disappointment felt around Leafs Nation today. It’s as though the Boston Bruins grabbed hold of the collective heart of Toronto and tried to squeeze the spirit from hockey’s Mecca. It’s that feeling within every Leaf fan today, deep in the pit of our stomachs; a mixture of rage, sadness and bewilderment. Surely a day marked on the calendar of every antacid and antidepressant manufacture around the world.
There is something else though, if we look deeper. Something bigger. Right now it sits buried beneath all the bitterness stirred up last night but is slowly taking root. In time it will overgrow the melancholy aura that will surely be enveloping Leafs Nation until the playoffs are through. Once it does our fandom will transcend into something bigger, louder and prouder than the NHL has ever known: The overwhelming potential of the future.
For 9 years “the future” has been used to either mock the Maple Leafs and their fans or help maintain their sanity while rocking gently in the corner of a dark room.
It’s truly different now. As the youngest team in the NHL, Toronto exceeded all expectation this year. All major networks called them to miss the playoffs, some even to be out of the running before the real push came at season’s end. Instead this team defied the odds and, with an exception of a few days here and there, remained in playoff position all season, even challenging for the division title in the final weeks. They followed that up with passionate, hard nosed hockey for 7 games vs Boston, a series even their faithful said would be short and only lost by a goal. Phil “The Thrill” yet again finished top 10 in league scoring and has finally slayed his Boston demons, netting some beautiful goals. Nazem Kadri blew all competition out of the water for significant stretches even placing in weekly “three stars” alongside Alex Ovechkin. James Reimer has settled the long standing argument over who will play goal. Combine these three stars with the amazing upsides of Joffrey Lupul, JVR and high ceiling of Matt Frattin, Jake Gardiner and you have an incredibly talented core, all under the age of 30.
The list of depth players is equally impressive: Jay McClement, Nik Kulemin, and Leo Komarov look to be a shutdown line to rival Randy Carlyle’s trio of Pahlsson, Moen and Niedermayer that anchored the only cup team in Ducks history.
As a team that boasts a roster heavily stacked with elite scoring potential, heavy hitters and unwavering dedication to blocking shots the future is incredibly bright.
Better yet, this time the future is only one off-season away.
Go Leafs Go