Leave it to the Toronto sports media and some in Leafs Nation to make a shark out of a minnow (Pardon the fishy pun). But that was just the case this week after the stinker of a loss to the Florida Panthers this week.
An innocent photo that popped up on social media this week of a few of players fishing on their two day break before the game against the Panthers became the lightning rod that the media and some fans used to crucify the team after the 7-2 loss.
Where do we begin to debunk this, let’s start with the fact that coach Babcock approved of this activity and the players involved felt it was a great team building experience for the veterans and rookies who joined in. What the players do on the league mandated days off is for them to decide, especially when we factor in the tight schedule the Maple Leafs will be facing over the last couple of weeks in the season. The rookies who have yet to play a full NHL schedule could use the rest to re-energize for the final big push in the last couple of weeks.
Secondly, had the team played like they did last night against the Lightening the fishing trip wouldn’t have been a big deal anyways. For a hockey market that has appreciatively seen many controversies and reasons why this franchise hasn’t won a cup since 1967, this wasn’t the biggest issue and not something any reasonable person would want to critique the team on.
So what happened against the Panthers then? What is the reason for the lackluster effort and result against the Panthers? Simply put in a 82 game season every team will have a handful of bad games, games where they for no reason at all come out flat and the game is handed to them. Looking back at every team this season I can guarantee you will find games much like the one the Maple Leafs had.
In a 82 game season anything can happen, a team can go gangbusters and go on a hot streak but you know that game that they finally lose is usually one their worst of the season. There is no logic or reason, but it just happens that way
Leafs Nation let’s find some perspective, let’s not jump on this young team just yet. Let’s remember that this team has already rewarded us this season by being in this playoff chase to begin with and are currently way ahead of predictions and ahead of schedule on this rebuild. This is yet another lesson in the development of these rookies as they grow to be chiseled veterans and grow to becoming Stanley Cup contenders. One last thing to consider, each time this team has had a stinker of a game they have comeback with an even better the next game as was the case last night when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-0 to regain ownership of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference (with a game in hand on both Islander and Lightning as well).