Maple Leafs consistantly disappointing

First we’re hopeful, then we’re skeptical and finally we’re dropping our heads with disappointment. Welcome to the life of a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, where the “passion that unites us all” has an abrupt way of breaking our hearts over and over again.

To those fellow blue-and-white bleeders out there, I want you to take a moment and pat yourself on the back. You’ve been through a lot. You’ve shown everlasting loyalty in the most unforgivable circumstances. You’ve cheered for every goal and sucked in the agony of all those losses.

It seems like yesterday you were excitedly sitting at the edge of the couch or bar stool, watching our Toronto boys battle the Boston Bruins in 2013 — their first taste of playoff hockey since 2004.

“The curse is over!” some of us chanted, believing that a new era has begun, hoping for a new threshold of victorious opportunity. We wore our jerseys proudly. We attached Leaf flags to our car windows. We bombarded the streets with overwhelming team spirit. Our time had come and we were ready to infiltrate the playoffs.

Well, all that bursting anticipation was only to watch our hopes and dreams get viciously ripped from our souls, as our three-goal-lead was flushed down the toilet in a flicker of fifteen excruciating minutes of NHL hockey in game seven of the series.

The paralyzing disbelief of Boston Bruin Patrice Bergeron’s point-shot goal with 50.9 seconds remaining still echoes hauntingly in our minds.

It’s been almost two seasons since that night and not much has changed. Sure we’ve made some roster tweaks and fired a head coach, but the fundamental problem is still the same.

The Leafs are consistently inconsistent.The pattern goes as follows: they start the season off strong, even get a few mini-winning streaks pumping, only to drowned in a deep pool of losses later on.

Like a roller coaster, the higher they rise the lower they quickly fall. In terms of making the playoffs, well, let’s just say we’ve been on the wrong ride for far too long.

January 2015 was statistically one of the worst months in Maple Leaf history. The team went 1-11-1 in over 13 games. With an average of 1.23 goals per game it was also one of the lowest scoring months in franchise history. This was after leading the entire NHL in scoring at the end of 2014.

So what’s the problem? Is it defensive, offensive, team chemistry or coaching? Perhaps it’s all of the above. Whatever it may be, the Leafs need to change their game if they ever want to hoist the cup again. But how are they going to do it?

There’s been much controversial speculation about whether or not the Leafs are “tanking” (a term for deliberately losing) the rest of their season with no chance of making the playoffs in order to gain the 2015 projected top draft pick, Connor McDavid.

Instead of going over whether or not this is entirely true, I want to focus the attention to one question: does one player make a difference?

My belief is yes, but to an extent. There’s no such thing as one player winning hockey games. It’s a team sport and it requires the effort of every player on the ice. However, one player does have the ability to set a new standard and awaken new potential in teammates alike.

With the early 1980s Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky may have been seen as the legendary superstar who carried the team to new heights, but the team’s victories were not a one-man-show. Players like Marc Messier, Paul Coffee and Glenn Anderson were also present throughout the team’s top moments, and their on-ice chemistry set new standards for the game. Gretzky was the leader who used his skill and dedication to inspire and motivate his fellow players to excel.

I’m not saying that Connor McDavid is going to be the next Wayne Gretzky. I’m saying that it is possible for an individual to set positive team-building vibes that can improve a collective performance. So where does coaching come into this? Well, let’s just say that the Leafs’ recent firing of Head coach Randy Carylye without a replacement head coach initially lined up definitely didn’t help grow much of a winning mentality within the organization. Coaching is one of the most difficult jobs in the game because of the requirement to get into the heads of their players at the same time as controlling the strategy and tactics of the fast-paced sport.

It’s equally important for there to be a positive relationship between the coach and the players – something that lacked with Carylye and the Leafs top scorer, Phil Kessel. Hopefully the new head coach, Peter Horachak, can bring everything needed to the table, through guiding the Leafs with positive relationships, smart plays and hard-ass training methods that can whip these lost boys into shape — though he hasn’t shown it yet.

Though the future is unclear for the Leafs, us true fans will keep watching despite the heartache. No matter how much disappointment comes our way, it is our love for the game that keeps us coming back. For now, grab a tissue and dry your eyes — Toronto won’t be seeing the playoffs any time soon.

 

 

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