The Maple Leafs are, as I’ve said before, not a particularly great hockey team, nor are they a particularly well-managed or well-coached hockey team. But I did think they were good enough to get into the playoffs if their goaltending held up.
It largely has. And as a result, the Leafs are currently sitting sixth in the East, seven points up on the Islanders, who are just below the postseason cutoff, and they’re looking pretty comfortable, even if they have won just three of their last 10 games (yuck). How comfortable? James Mirtle tweeted this morning that by his count, because the Leafs currently have 40 points and the rest of the East sucks, that the Leafs can go just 5-7-2 in their remaining 14 games and be more or less assured a playoff spot.
Which is crazy. They’ve almost done everything in their power to not make the playoffs, including playing their worst players more minutes than one of the best point-producing and possession-driving centers in the league this season, leaving a high-quality offensive defenseman in the AHL in favor of Korbinian Holzer, and been absolute crap in the shootout. But it’s all been to no avail.
The Leafs are probably going to make the playoffs. They’d need to collapse way more significantly than they did last season, and in 14 games that doesn’t seem all that likely, especially given how soft their schedule is. In all, 10 of their remaining games are against teams below them in the standings, including the Hurricanes (bad), Flyers (worse), Devils twice (okayish I guess), Rangers twice (still underperforming), Islanders twice (dreadful), Capitals (woof), Lightning (crap), and Panthers (the worst).
I can’t be too sure whether lot of people will try to paint this as somehow being a result of their canning Brian Burke being the reason that the Leafs are actually good enough to make the playoffs finally, but I’m going to err on the side of caution and say they obviously will. Only a person like Burke saying that he set the table for the Leafs’ moderate success this likely playoff season — not coincidentally the only one in which James Reimer has been remotely healthy in the last three — would be viewed as being some sort of derogatory misrepresentation of fact. But what has Dave Nonis done this season? Anything of note besides strand Jake Gardiner in the minors for too long? The answer is nothing. That’s it.
So it seems like at long last Toronto is going to have its playoff team. Which is probably something it should or even would have done last season. But moreover it looks like people in the media up there might have to actually say moderately nice things about the things Brian Burke has done in constructing this team and maybe even setting it up for the future. Either that or it’ll take some serious logical acrobatics to avoid doing so. That’s the really mind-blowing thing about all this.
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