Leafs should drink their poison to obtain their tonic
“Fight on my men,” Sir Andrew said. “A little I am hurt, but not yet slain. I’ll just lie down and bleed awhile, and then I’ll rise to fight again.”
These lines from the Ballad of Sir Andrew Barton are often used as inspiration to pick your self up and continue to battle no matter how bad things get. In the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I really hope they have never read that poem.
It is time for the Leafs to mail it in on the 2011-2012 season. For far too long the Leafs have been their own worst enemies in terms of rebuilding and restructuring. Leafs fans are used to seeing the team have a late season surge; one that not good enough to sneak in the playoffs, but enough to take them out of position to receive a high draft pick.
As I write this, the Leafs currently sit in 12th in the Eastern conference but are only three points behind the eighth-place Jets. You could easily argue that this team is still very much in the hunt. But inversely the Leafs are only two points ahead of the Islanders, a team which is 26th overall in the league. For those of you who don’t realize teams that finish 26th or lower have a shot at landing the 1st overall pick in the draft lottery.
So let us weigh the options. This young Leafs team can continue to pursue the eighth and final playoff spot, in the midst of a late season coaching change.
They face a difficult closing schedule that sees them playing 14 for their final 17 games against teams that are ahead of them in the standings, as well as playing a number of nights back-to-back.
But let’s pretend in some miraculous fashion, the Leafs do sneak in the playoffs.
A few things have become evident from watching past championship teams; to go far in the playoffs you need depth, grit, and a hot goaltender. Suffice to say, the Leafs currently have none of these qualities. If the Leafs do get in to the postseason, it will be a very brief four game stay.
On the other hand, the Leafs could do the smart move and lose most of their remaining games. Obviously I am not advocating that they throw the games, the integrity of the game needs to be kept in tact. They could simply position themselves to do poorly.
For example, James Reimer has been terrible down the stretch. But Brian Burke said in a recent interview that he believes James Reimer is “the real deal”. The Leafs should therefore let Reimer start most of these final games and when he proves he isn’t ready, the organization can move in a new direction this off-season.
Another key to improving their losing chances is to dress Mike Komisarek every game. The large defenseman hasn’t really panned out in his time in Toronto. But he would make a great example for the other young Toronto defensemen of exactly how not to play the game of hockey.
Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski have been pretty bad too, so they also deserve more ice time.
This whole idea may sound in bad taste, but it would be for the long term betterment of the Leafs. If they can fall into the bottom five, the Leafs may have a chance at getting Sarnia’s Nail Yakupov or Quebec’s Mikhail Grigorenko, players who are being compared to Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin respectively. Players who could provide more scoring to a team that is far too reliant on its first line.
The draft also offers a number of talented defensemen like Ryan Murray, Matt Dumba and Morgan Reilly. All in all, the Leafs could definitely better themselves in the future, if they could continue to suck in the present.