Another Long Summer
Commentators have been quick to point out that the elimination of the Toronto Maple Leafs from playoff contention means that the club will have failed to win the Stanley Cup for 40 years. I'll be quick to point out that had the Leafs made the playoffs, the team still would have failed to win the Cup in 40 years.
We knew before yesterday's game between New Jersey and the New York Islanders that if the Leafs did in fact qualify for the playoffs, they would play the best team in the league, the Buffalo Sabres. Average hockey fans knew the Leafs would have a long shot at beating the Sabres, but we thought that the resilience of this year's Leafs team would make them The One -- defy odds and win the Cup.
When New Jersey tied the Islanders with one second left in the game, I even thought this year's Leafs may be the Team of Destiny. But that was delusion: how many times since 1967 have Leafs fans thought that year's team was destined to win the Cup?
But missing the playoffs, it feels like being castrated. And commentators and fans will call for firings, and trades, and people foolish enough to think their plan, the one that will guarantee a Cup parade next summer in Toronto, should be implemented are wasting their time daydreaming and worrying about a team that knows more about disappointment than destiny.
Some sympathetic Leafs fans will suggest this year's team struggled because of injuries. Yes, there were many, but the reason the Leafs are packing their lockers today for a long summer is their Jekyll and Hyde approach to playing games. At times, they were good enough to fool the most skeptical Leafs fans. At times, the Leafs looked like a failed suicide attempt -- losing streaks, blown games, undisciplined play. In the end, added up, they succeeded.
Yesterday, after the Islanders won the shoot-out to clinch a playoff berth, I was surprised at how quickly I recovered from the disappointment. I was surprised in my relief. Now, I could put away my silly game-day superstitions for another five months, take a deep breathe, and worry about something I could change by myself.