The Toronto Maple Leafs hadn’t made the playoffs for 8 years. 8 years of painfully bad hockey. However, in 2013 the Leafs unexpectedly clinched. They weren’t supposed to be there and no one gave them a chance against a tougher and more skilled Boston Bruins team. But they pushed them, they had them on the edge of elimination and then it all came crashing down. 11 minutes of horrible defensive hockey and a great push from the Bruins gave Boston the opportunity to win it in overtime. And we all know they did.
That collapse was heartbreaking for Leafs Nation. They were so close to an upset, so close to another round of playoff hockey and then they were robbed. It wasn’t the loss that was so heartbreaking but rather the way they lost. It seemed as if the Leafs just had the most “Leafs” moment yet. Toronto let out a collective scream, they couldn’t believe it.
But one of the most heartbreaking and shocking moments in history turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If they win that game who knows where the franchise goes. It’s a fair bet to say they don’t draft William Nylander. Or Mitch Marner. Or Auston Matthews. They probably wouldn't of signed Mike Babcock away from Detroit. Toronto may have never acquired Frederick Anderesen from Anaheim. It’s a safe bet that Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are still on this team. Those 11 minutes changed history and the course of the entire league.
Fortunately, they did lose that game. And they did draft all the kids, Mike Babcock is here and Frederick Andersen is wearing the blue and white in the blue paint. Dion Phaneuf is sitting in Ottawa’s top 4 and Phil Kessel is eating hot dogs out of the Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh.
Everything and everyone seems to be in the right place. In a way, a new era begins tonight. Last season, they were no expectations for the team. The playoffs seemed out of reach, and a lottery pick seemed likely. But because they did make it to the post season, and because everyone was better then expected, the expectations get real. That’s the new era. An era where the expectation from everyone is that this team should, and can, win.
However this season goes, and the seasons to follow, I think Leaf fans can get excited again. It’s going to be fun, so lets get started.