So, is it April yet?
Oh, don’t tell me any of you were overly impressed by the Maple Leafs’ recent wins over the high-falutin’ Red Wings, Senators and Canadiens. I saw all three games and, trust me, the collective energy put forth by those teams against Toronto wouldn’t be enough to push a Hot Wheels toy down the steep side of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Put plainly, the Leafs (a) were outright overlooked by Detroit, Ottawa and Montreal; (b) benefited from some of the most dubious officiating I’ve witnessed all year; and (c) minimized their horrendous mistakes enough to eke out victories that won’t get them anywhere close to a playoff spot by season’s end.
Some accomplishment that is.
Somehow, over the course of Toronto’s remaining 24 regular-season games, I doubt you’ll see the same level of lethargy from their opponents. Therefore, it’s only right to expect the Leafs to sink even further, to lose even uglier, to turn interim GM Cliff Fletcher’s hair even whiter, before they get put out of their misery for the fourth consecutive decade.
And if ownership is truly intent on finally building a Stanley Cup-winning team, that’s precisely as it should be.
Am I implying the Leafs need to “tank it” and lose as many games as possible, in hopes of securing the best chance to draft consensus No. 1 prospect Steven Stamkos this summer?
Damn right I am. And please, don’t offer up the usual tripe about “playing for pride” from this point on. If pride truly entered into the equation, would we have seen not one, not two, but four games this year in which the Leafs were outscored by at least five goals?
Damn right you wouldn’t. That’s why Fletcher must force Mats Sundin – and anybody else with a no-trade clause in their contract – to accept being dealt to another team. That’s why Andrew Raycroft should be starting at least every road game (I’d say every home game, too, but I don’t know if that would be crueler to Raycroft or Leafs fans). That’s why Kyle Wellwood should be playing defense, and why Ian White should be on the wing. Accentuate the negative, is what I’m saying. Hell, it’s worked well for the media for hundreds of years. And it’s the only way something positive is ever going to take root in the Leafs’ dried-up, picked-clean, rock-laden garden.This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.