By Cole Parkinson
Well, it’s almost fall time again and that means one thing to most Canadians…it’s hockey time, baby!
The last two years I was still in baseball mode with my beloved Blue Jays still in the hunt but after this dismal and forgetful season I can’t wait to see the boys back out on the ice.
Whether it be local teams in minor hockey, Junior A/B, WHL or the NHL I’m just glad to have my favourite sport back after a few months away. Sure it seems like it just ended (I mean it really just did end in June), but nothing makes me feel more at home than knowing hockey is back.
For me the most exciting thing is knowing the Toronto Maple Leafs will get things underway pretty soon.
I can feel all of the collective eye rolls and shuddering at the fact that I’m a Leafs fan, I know because it happens most of the time someone asks me who my allegiance lies with, unless it’s a fellow Maple Leafs fan and in that case it’s always nice meeting another sensible person!
I’m kidding of course, it takes a special breed to be a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
The 60 year cup drought, the endless bad years and of course the epic collapse against the Bruins in 2013 (no I don’t want to talk about it) are all reason enough to jump ship from the sinking ship that reached the bottom of the ocean a long, long time ago.
But things have changed in Leaf Land!
Yes, that’s right a few fine young lads by the names of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander have re-energized the fan base after they all had fantastic seasons last year, propelling the buds from the worst place team in the league into a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
And my what a playoff series it was!
Taking the Washington Capitals to overtime five out of six games and they were all one goal games, a few more bounces and it easily could have went the other way.
But before we assume the Leafs will go further than the past year we need a reality check.
Never mind Matthews’ incredible four goal first NHL game performance, Mitch Marner’s filthy goal against the Florida Panthers or Willy Nylander leading the team in power play points last season, because if I’ve learned one thing as a Maple Leafs fan it’s to temper expectations and expect the worst no matter how good the team looks on paper.
I’m still coming down from the high of last year’s fantastic playoff series against the Caps but that doesn’t mean I 100 per cent expect the Maple Leafs to be a dominant force in the show.
Do they have a great looking team on paper?
It is hard to argue with a great forward core and Frederik Andersen between the pipes but last year the team was relatively healthy all year with nine players playing all 82 games as well as Nylander missing just one regular season game.
I don’t think its fair to assume that the team will go unscathed again in the injury department but we Maple Leafs fans can sure certainly hope for it!
Another big concern people seem to be discussing is the dreaded sophomore slump.
It’s certainly possible that one of the many rookies who put on a Leafs sweater last year run into a slump, the question is are there enough pieces to be able to pick up the slack if that happens?
I would certainly hope so but who’s to say that the team just has a bad year… enough negativity though, I guess that’s just the way I think after being disappointed for so many seasons.
Regardless last year was my favourite year of being a Leafs fan since the early 2000s when Mats Sundin regularly graced us with his greatness, it’s just too bad they could never find someone to really help him push through the Eastern Conference final. This finally feels like a team that could bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto but you won’t hear me saying it out loud!
In the meantime, it’s time to enjoy the final days of summer 2017 before the weather turns because we all know that will happen in the blink of an eye!