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What is your honest wish as a Leaf supporter: a late playoff bid, or a top-five draft pick?

A lot of people have been away over the past while, for vacation and/or "March break".  If there are some recent posts you may like to check out, click on the following:


The sways of emotion that we experience as fans are natural.  We get discouraged when things don’t go well and are often unduly critical and pessimistic.  Conversely, we tend to wax unrealistically optimistic when the good guys win a few, or a young player looks good for a game or two (sometimes a shift or two).  The future seems very bright at those moments.

Even now- as the Leafs push their way to the end line of a confusing 2011-’12 NHL season-  when they win, we’re happy, even if they didn’t necessarily play that well.  We see the positives, look at the good “stat” lines, and it tends to fill us with hope—hope that things will indeed get better, that another win (and maybe something more, like a playoff spot) is just around the corner.

As the recent losing skid continued, though, many fans were reduced to (either a genuine desire on their part, or through sheer frustration) hoping the Leafs would extend their losing streak and actually plummet even further in the overall NHL standings.  That, of course, would lead to the opportunity to pick “high” in the upcoming NHL entry draft in late June.  Perhaps, the feeling was/is, the Leafs would (finally?) be able to tap into some of the high-end, very elite talent that has, in recent times, pushed teams like Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago toward prominent success—or has put them (see Edmonton) in a position where they might be awfully good in two or three years, as these drafted youngsters mature.

Now, we all know the Leafs did have a high draft pick not that long ago (5th overall in 2008, Luke Schenn) and  sort of mid-high (7th overall in 2009, Nazem Kadri).  But what fans are really talking about is a top-three pick—the spots where, in this day and age, with all the scouting and research done on players, it has been harder to really “miss” on guys.  This summer, that would net a team youngsters like (a lot of you know the names much better than I do…) Yakupov or Grigorenko, if I have their names correct.  In any event, some great Russian kids, evidently.

Now, before we feel too sorry for the Leaf misfortune at “never” being able to draft high enough to get a really outstanding player, we all understand that the Leafs, in retrospect, would have had a shot at the second overall pick in 2010, but that choice went to the Bruins, of course, in the much-debated Phil Kessel deal.

This all leads me to ask this question:  with 10 games left in the season (and the Leafs, as I write this, six points out of a playoff spot after the Washington loss on Sunday night) what are you, honestly, hoping for?  Would you like to see the Leafs make, under Carlyle, a late run, and see if they can catch lightning in a bottle and make it in?  (I posted recently on a great late-season playoff run, when the Leafs were very much in the situation they are in right now.  Click here to read more…) Or is your feeling that the organization would in fact be best served it they struggled down the stretch and finished near the bottom of the overall standings?

Fans generally understand that no players “tank”.  Why would they?  If players perform poorly, it reflects on them, and they may be the ones not getting the contract they want, or not even making the team (or any team) next season.  No, players play to win, always.  Full stop.  Personal pride means more than some “future” shot at their current team getting better because of some kid that will be drafted.  (Besides, they may be the one who loses their job when the new guy makes the team next season....)

The issue is not what will the coach do (Carlyle wants to win every shift, as do all coaches), or what the players will do.  I know they will play hard to the end, whether that is the last day of the regular-season, or into the playoffs.  No, my question is specifically for those who live and die with the team, and, as fans, may well have a personal preference.

Are you of the “let’s make a run to the playoffs” contingent?  Or would you rather the team lose enough to assure the organization a high lottery pick?

Would you be happy just letting the chips fall where they may?  Even if the Leafs finish in, say, 9th place, and get the 8th to 10th overall pick in June, would you be good with that—as long as the team continues to improve?

Send your thoughts along.  I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say.


  1. This is a tough one, Michael. Results and accomplishments aside, these guys are professionals, and are paid very well to do a job each night. We've witnessed good individual performances (Kessel, Lupul, Gardiner, for example), but these pros haven't got the job done as a cohesive unit. I know, as you say, they won't "tank." But what's frustrating is this late season attitude of 'no pressure' and 'let's build on this' or 'we will keep competing even if it means playing spoiler'... really, this has happened too often. When they started to fall off in early Feb, they should've blown up the blueprint (whatever that is) and tried a coaching change or blown up the roster at the deadline (i.e., get those 4 first rounders!).

    I still want our young team to get that exposure to playoff hockey (even if it's an early exit), just so they know what it takes. This late season spoiler crap won't cut it. I think even the folks who have been there (Phaneuf, Kessel) have acquired too much blue&white disease and have forgotten what it means to play in spring. At the same time, it's frustrating to see a string of late (or absent) picks at the draft. Especially when you look at teams you mention who have built winners through the draft...which is what you are supposed to do! Are we even incompetent as an organization when it comes to losing?

    I anticipate we will be picking 7th or 8th...sigh. But I never like to see our team lose. So much for honesty! Sorry for the (possibly incoherent) rant, but thanks for the space to vent!


  2. For me it's either or...a playoff spot or a top draft choice.

    I hate the 19th place and drafting 11th type of finish.

    Alex Galchenyuk should be availble at the 6th spot. He is the guy I want.

  3. I forgot to say: As long as we beat Boston on Monday...we could lose every game after that I would be happy.

  4. I think I’ll cheer the team on while they play and rabble win (boo draft pick got worse!) or lose (boo they lost!).

    "Would you be happy just letting the chips fall where they may? Even if the Leafs finish in, say, 9th place, and get the 8th to 10th overall pick in June, would you be good with that—as long as the team continues to improve?"

    This, yes i would, but I’m in a much more agreeable mood than i was last season.

  5. Hi Michael,

    Personally, when I look at the numbers and see how steep the climb is, my first reaction is "forget it, there's no chance". Now I'm not actively hoping the Leafs lose, I'm just feeling very indifferent. We're stuck between a rock and a hard place right now. But one thing I think most of us can agree on is that things will be just much bit better down the road if they can secure a real blue-chipper. And I think the franchise needs that player badly enough that I, like a lot of fans, am willing to forego some meaningless wins in late March. Goodness knows we've had more than enough of those over the last few years.

    Another thing is that winning streaks tend to cloud judgement. And I think there needs to be some more major personnel movement, particularly among the veterans. Burke has to see this, especially after a 2-13-2 stretch where his vets failed him (half the time they weren't even dressing). If they're going to play Carlyle's system effectively (ie. be defensively responsible AND set the tone physically), I believe they need some veterans who can instill some calm when games get chippy and and also actually play NHL hockey. Burke needs to be aggressive here.

    At the risk of writing a post longer than your original, I'll leave it at that and see what you think. Keep up the good work!

  6. I really don't want to see a late playoff push - because it would just be frustrating to watch. The Leafs pretty much have to win all their remaining games to make it in, and that's very unlikely. I think it would be (even more) crushing as a Leaf fan if the win 8 out of the their last 10 and not make it on tie breakers or something silly.

    The talent pool for this year's draft is apparently a little shallow and outside of the top 2, is going to be a bit of a crapshoot. There's even been some talk about Columbus trading away their top pick (potentially 1st overall) which doesn't happen very often.

    It's possible that the Leafs will fall in the lottery range, but I don't think it's going to be a big difference maker. At this point, I'd like to see Kessel hit 40 goals, 80+ points, Reimer finish strong, and the Leafs finish ahead of the Habs. ;)

  7. Hi Caedmon. I recall that you have made the point before...that it would be very beneficial for these young players to make the playoffs, even if they went out fairly quickly. I agree, it would give them critically important experience for the future.

    Anything can happen, but it will be a tough hill to climb to get there this spring. We'll see.

    Thanks Caedmon.

  8. Thanks DP. I wonder if the Leaf brass is thinking the same way, if they finish with the 6th pick?

  9. elseldo...sounds like you'll be relatively happy either way- you've learned to prepare yourself, as a Leaf fan, not to be too disappointed! Experience in these things does matter, eh?

    Thanks elseldo.

  10. Mills...well said.

    The "win in March when it's too late" thing has been a frustrating pattern since 2006, yes. And yes, it does feel like it's been a while since we drafted high and grabbed a player that we developed properly and built around for years....Wendel Clark may be the last and that was more than 25 years ago.

    I agree with your comment that "winning streaks cloud judgement)". So can losing streaks, yes. But a lot depends on when these streaks occur. Winning now, when the pressure os somewhat off, has a different feel to it than did losing when we were still in control of our own destiny.

    But I also agree (as I believe I posted here recently) that we need some new leadership, and some veteran presence on this team.

    The next moves Burke makes will be crucial ones. I guess we all know that!

    Thanks Mills. Good stuff.

  11. Thanks Hogie. Always good to see you post here.

    The goals you cite (Kessel, Reimer), while modest, are attainable. If Reimer finishes strongly, that would be particularly hopeful for the future.

    As for the draft, I personally don't know enough about what is "out there". It will be interesting to see if Burke makes a play for the first overall pick with Columbus. And I'm guessing he will. Whether that will involve Nash as well, I don't know.

  12. My response is somewhat conditional. I'd like to see the Leafs make a playoff run if it sees Reimer return to his pre-injury form, allows Carlyle to develop the defensive system better, and helps Kessel get to 40. If that's not going to happen, we'll probably lose anyways and get a nice draft pick. I'm looking at the rest of the season as generally win-win

  13. Well, usually when a team falls short and playoff hopes are pretty much gone, they use the remainder of the season to evaluate their personnel and determine what they have for the future. Ideally, if the Leafs had callups available they would use those to bring up some AHL hopefuls to see how close they are to being NHL ready. Sadly no callups left, so that option is out.

    As for what I'd like to see happen during the rest of the Leafs season... 5 simple(?) things:

    1) Carlyle to build a working relationship with his players, and restore their team confidence.
    2) Carlyle to get an appreciation of the talent he has (and doesn't have) and teach this team how to play some sound team-defence. He's been making progress here already.
    3) The team needs to compete nightly, with an energized state of urgency. They would never have tanked in February had they competed hard every shift.
    4) Carlyle needs to adapt his coaching style slightly to the team he has here. This team is built for speed and he can exploit that without losing focus on team defence.
    5) Burke, Carlyle and the rest of the management team must closer evaluate what they have and what they need and take some steps to get there over the summer. They missed opportunities at the trade deadline.

    As for wins/losses or draft position, I'm less concerned. If they're able to do the five things listed above I'll be generally pleased knowing we're going into next season on a brighter note.

    After Wilson was fired I said I don't care if this team loses every game of the season in overtime/shootouts, as long as they learn how to play proper team defence and compete every night. Sure a high draft pick may help this team, but it won't make them a playoff contender anytime soon. It won't solve the problems with the team.

  14. That's the best positive outlook (and no stress, too), Chi-Town Leafs. The Reimer factor is likely important for a lot of us, who'd like to see him right himself, as it were, heading into next season.


  15. Great post, TM:__fan.

    I agree that one pick likely won't solve lingering issues. (My intent today was simply to get a sense from the fan base as to whether they, deep down, want to see the team end up with a really high pick, or would prefer to see them make a run.)

    I think that each of the points you mention is significant. The organization is building and the team should be a contender in the East soon, regardless of what it does the rest of this season. Carlyle is now the guy that has to make it work, and I have little doubt he will get results when it comes to having his team prepared to play good defence -and play hard- most nights. Thanks.

  16. I think all of us want improvement from the Leafs, but when you get to the end of the season and there are ten games left it's clear that the long term goal of drafting earlier can outweigh whatever the team would do on the ice.

    I didn't hear any Leafs fans clamoring for a full year tank, but it's the middle of March and we're near the lottery, what's 10 more losses after the seven weeks we all just watched?

  17. Forget about lotteries, just get out there and earn your pay cheque! There are always good players available throughout the first round if you have good amateur scouting. Frequently, very good players will slip to the bottom part of the first round and beyond. Later drafting does not seem to have hurt Detroit, no doubt because of superior amateur scouting, which the Leafs may well have. What I hate is gratuitous trading away of draft picks, as if they did not matter. Clearly, draft picks and good drafting do matter. The Leafs have to continue forward, and the draft chips will fall where they fall. I just hope that they hang on to the picks that they have.

    I particularly liked TML_Fan’s point 4) “Carlyle needs to adapt his coaching style slightly to the team he has here. This team is built for speed and he can exploit that without losing focus on team defence.” This point hits the nail on the head. It will be much better for the coach to adapt than to have to replace so much of the roster. To me, that is the critical point moving forward. Also, it will be much better for the fans if they can somehow morph their speed and skill into a defensively sound game.

    Here is something more productive to hope for: The Justin Schultz situation and his likely free agency (documented by Alex Tran on MLHS). By hoping for the Leaf’s landing Jake Gardiner’s old partner we can avoid dabbling in the metaphysics of losing and the dodgy idea of negative goal setting. Also, that way we could abandon the Machiavellian cheering for losses (regardless of how maddening the current situation may be).

  18. Thanks for joining in on this one, Chemmy.

    All Leaf fans want the team to win. That said, it's natural, I think, for fans to - if things go off the rails, as they did recently - hope for a nice high pick.

  19. Good stuff, Bobby C.

    Your point on being able to rely on your amateur scouts to find talent is certainly an important one. I can appreciate why fans would love a shot at a top three pick, as it is normally a ticket to a good player, and one who can often start contributing to the big club right away.

    I agree with your comment on what TML__fan wrote. Yes, players have to adjust, but a good coach (and Carlyle is) will also adjust to the team he has to work with.

    The Schultz "situation", as noted by Alex at MLHS and some others, will be one to watch, yes.

    Thanks Bobby.

  20. Although the games have lost their urgency, I want to see a significant increase in the "compete" factor - and I think we're seeing it, however maladroitly at times. Grabovski vs Neil? Wouldn't have happened earlier this year.
    Although the team is still looking for the balance of Carlyle's defence-first style, and the attack-with-speed we're built for, I want to see signs it's developing. I definitely do not want to see a slide to the bottom.

  21. I hear you on the urgency issue, Gerund O'. I'm sure you're right. That said, you get the feeling that, especially with a new coach, there will be another kind of urgency in place that hasn't been around the last several times the Leafs were "playing out" the season...

    Yeah, Grabbo/Neil, that was something.

    You raise another key point re balance...the speed team that has been built has to be meshed with Carlyle's defensive/toughness approach.

  22. Always hope and cheer for playoffs. 6 points isn't impossible, especially since most of the teams we're chasing are trending down and we play buffalo twice.

  23. True Anon. I don't think it's as unrealistic as we might think. You can make up 6-8 points in a big hurry.....Thanks.

  24. I'd rather see the Leafs in the playoffs, any day of the week. The players and the fans both need it.

    Unfortunately I don't see that happening this season. The next best alternative, as I see it, would be drafting up the top of the first round. But I'd rather Burke got there by trading up from sixth or eighth position than by tanking.

  25. Thanks Peregrine

    I'm guessing that that is precisely what Burke will do. He may want to make a big splash to re-capture momentum in people's minds, while still helping the team in the long-run. (I recognize that he wouldn't make a deal just to make a deal.) If it is true that Columbus will be dealing their pick, that opens up the door for Burke to make a bold move, perhaps one also involving Nash.

  26. Leaf fans are a contentious lot.

    I am a Leaf fan from way back. There were the Ballard years that we all endured, but, now they look decent when compared to the teams recent play. Probably even more anguish.

    The notion of "tanking" appalls me. It goes against my nature. I don't see any player intentionally throwing a game or Carlyle allowing such talk in the dressing room. It will not happen in my opinion.

    And yes, we have many areas of concern to deal with over the summer. There was a short period this season, that I actually thought we had turned a corner. It is a tall order for Burkie to clean up this mess and I am not convinced he is up to such a task.

    From one Irishman to another ... Burkie, Good Luck!

  27. Thanks for that Faeldam- always glad when you drop by!