''Lets Roll the Dice''
For 37 years all over North America, but mostly Toronto die hard leaf fans begged to ask the question, “Is this the year?” And year after year disappointment filled the minds of crushed leaf fans who had dreams. Dreams of partying down Younge Street and finally seeing Mats Sundin raise that Stanley Cup and skate around the ACC.
The question for this year of course will be “Is this the year we fail miserbly?”, who knows. “Is this the year where we take one last crack at Lord Stanley then terminate the team?”, maybe. “Is this the year Pat Quinn finally gets fired?”, hopefully. “Is this the year the leafs take a chance on their youth?”, YES. The future is now for the leafs. With loads and loads of youth just itching away to crack the leafs line up, this is the year to let them try!
For years and years especially in the Pat Quinn era the leafs had great teams coming oh so close to FINALLY making their first cup appearance, but it never happened. Small market teams like Buffalo and Carolina took our chance away and made us ponder the question, “what if?” Each year they made their playoff appearance, won a round, then got eliminated. The excuses would come crashing in, “the leafs were injured, half the team were AHL’ers”, or “we ran into a bigger, stronger, faster team” or “we ran up against a team who had a strong system which is hard to beat.”
Every year the leafs were missing a finishing piece to the puzzel to put them over the top. Every year they entered the playoffs with A. Strong goaltending (Cujo and Eddy) B. Great forwards with grit and skill (Sundin, Mogilny, Roberts, Tucker) and of course the achilles heel C. The defence. Enough said. They either lacked a “Big D-man”, “Hard nosed D-man”, or a “Stay at home D-man”
So what are peoples expectations of the leafs this year? Is it “WERE GOING ALL THE WAY!”, is it “HA LEAFS ARE GOING TO BE TERRIBLE!”, is it “Its going to be extremely tough for them to make the playoffs” or is it “well this is the year where they can take a chance and roll the dice.”
“Take a chance and roll the dice” “Whats this guy talking about you ask?” This year there are going to be no excuses as to why the leafs suck, simply because thats just it they suck. But hold on just a sec. Remember when I was talking about the future is now, it is. Lets take a chance and play the Stajans, Steens, Colaiacivos, Bells, Whites, Hedins, Harrisons and Wellwoods. Most of these guys are defencemen and I believe will be the nucleus of this leaf team in the future. There’s no excuse to not playing them, there ready!.
Two years ago the leafs couldn’t afford to play a guy like Colaiacivo because one mistake by him and it’d cost them the game, the sole blame would be on the rookie, and thats not good for the young guy, it’d destroy his confidence. Thats not the reason why the Leafs didn’t play their young guys, its because they didn’t have faith in them to produce. But with so many holes in the depleted leafs line up they have to roll the dice and just let them play and see what they can do!
A perfect example of how a team had faith and believed in their youth is the Philadelphia Flyers. They obviously made a excellent move in getting Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the draft, but the brilliant thing they did was put them in high pressured situations. It was to see if they could produce or not, they put faith in them that they could perform and they did.
This year the Philadelphia Phantoms won the Calder Cup, main reason why: Carter and Richards. In the playoffs Carter tallied for 12 goals, 11 assists for 23 points in 21 games. Richards had 7 goals, 8 assists for 15 points in only 14 games. Everyone knew these two were going to be good after there outing at the World Juniors, but after there amazing performance in this years AHL playoffs, Bobby Clarke had the FAITH to drop key guys like LeClair and Amonte without second guessing himself because he knew and BELIEVED that Carter and Richards were the real deal.
This year the leafs need to stop worrying about trying to win, but play the young guns, and see what happens. Theres absolutely NO reason why the leafs can’t be good this year by playing the youth. It showed last year in the Stanley Cup finals with Tampa and the Flames.