Losing streaks in hockey are like quick sand: if they get hold of your team, you risk sinking into oblivion.
That’s where we find the Toronto Maple Leafs these days, somewhere en route to oblivion.
The Leafs started the season from a point of strength. They scored goals, played well defensively and were backed by solid goaltending. They were competitive against the better teams in Eastern Conference. Sure, they struggled but they also seemed to find their groove in November and December. There was a successful 10-1-1 run; one that included a 6 game winning streak.
Then the wheels came off.
January 2015 was one of the worst months in TML history. On the ice, sniper Phil Kessel couldn’t score (2 goals and 2 assists); Joffrey Lupul was lost to injury, again – he has played in just 29 of the team’s 52 games this season; and goaltender Jonathan Bernier couldn’t hold the fort:
The Leafs earned just 3 points in 13 games in all of January and spiraled out of a playoff spot.
Off the ice, all hell broke loose. Fans who tossed their jerseys onto the ice in frustration were subsequently banned from the Air Canada Centre for a year. Head coach Randy Carlyle was fired and replaced with assistant coach Peter Horachek. The media had a field day dissecting every aspect of the Leafs’ game. And the team continued to lose.
February began with a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators. It was the Leafs 10th loss in a row. They are now 3-17-1 in their last 21 games; and with little sign of improvement. The team that started the season among the Eastern Conference’s best is now 13th in the Conference and 13 points out of a playoff spot; a free fall that has many reeling.
For the first time in decades, Leafs fans are losing hope, or at least patience.
Thanks to a dedicated fan base, the TML continue to be the wealthiest team in the NHL, valued at over $1 billion USD. This, despite that it has been 9 seasons since the team last won a playoff series and 46 years since they last won the Stanley Cup. Today, fans aren’t cheering, nor are they hopeful. When once they masked their displeasure with paper bags over their heads, today Leafs fans are speaking up.
The discarded jerseys represent a fraction of the disgruntled voices that have let their frustration be known through social media and even YouTube videos:
The media has jumped on the plight of disgruntled fans and continue to chronicle the Leafs’ descent. It’s hard to avoid. There are so few positives to write about. We can only hope that the Leafs have finally hit rock bottom.
As the fans abandon their team, and the team falls deeper into oblivion, it’s easy to forget that the Leafs will win again. It might not be enough to claw their way back into the playoffs or salvage enough of this season to wipe away bad memories, but they will win. And when they do, it won’t be long before Leafsnation is happy again. Until then, the Leafs will be marred by the quick sand; solid efforts will go unrewarded and bad luck will be the difference between a welcome win and another loss.
The Leafs visit the New Jersey Devils on Friday before returning home for games against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday and the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
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