Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's About Time...Toronto Has A Team They Can Be Proud Of

Toronto is no doubt a hockey town, it is Canada, but they have three major sports teams in their city (four if you count the occasional Bills game).  The unfortunate part is none of those teams have been good in a long time.  The Toronto Blue Jays made big moves this offseason to try and compete with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox in the ultra competitive AL East, a division they have not won since before the players strike in 1994.  They went out and made big moves with a trade that brought in Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson among others on top of the signing of Melky Cabrera and separate trade to bring in RA Dickey.  After all the hype and hoopla, the Jays ended April as the worst team in the a lot.  The surprising Red Sox are leading the division, and Toronto is eight games behind them already.  They haven't brought a championship home for what will be twenty years after this season.  The Raptors are just plain bad.  They haven't made the playoffs in half a decade when the Eastern Conference basically begs someone to be that eighth seed.  Out of the eighteen seasons that they existed, they had a winning record in four of them.  This despite the fact that they had superstars like Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and Damon Stoudemire as franchise centerpieces at different times.  This is a sad franchise that had its biggest acquisition in who knows how long in the acquisition of Rudy Gay.  It didn't help much.

Then there are the stalwart Toronto Maple Leafs.  The Maple Leafs are a very successful franchise as they have won the second most Stanley Cups in the history of the sport with thirteen.  Unfortunately, anyone under the age of fifty most certainly can't remember one that actually happened.  The Leafs last championship run happened way back in 1967.  Since then seventeen franchises have been able to say that they were champions.  The Toronto faithful can't wait til the day comes where they can claim the same thing, if it ever comes.

It has been nine years since the last time that the Leafs were playoff bound.  When the Maple Leafs were in the playoffs there were no states that allowed same sex marriage, Ken Jennings had never been on Jeopardy, the Red Sox were still living through the curse, Call of Duty and Halo were still on their first installments, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $2.10, Lance Armstrong was the most beloved athlete in the world, we didn't care who the mother was, Stephen Colbert was just some guy on the Daily Show, Lebron James was a rookie, and we didn't hate Gary Bettman.  Well two lockouts and eight seasons later and we finally have Toronto playoff hockey.  I just wish Brian Burke was here to see this (wait, no I don't). 

One can point to many things as to why the Leafs are playoff bound.  The most common attribute would have to be the addition of James Van Riemsdyk.  He provided another extreme scoring touch to an offense that was way to reliant on Phil Kessel to produce for them.  He was a injury hazard coming into the season, and he made sure that he played all 48 games to show that was all predetermined.  He scored thirty-two points throughout the season.  He has shown that he can play through the pressure cooker of Philadelphia, so Toronto is a cake walk.

James Reimer has put together his best campaign by far in his career.  He bounced back from his sophomore slump season that he experienced last season.  He posted his best save percentage and goals against average in his three years in the league.  He took this team on his back and carried them to new heights.  At the ripe age of 25, he showed that he will be the man between the pipes for years to come.  He ended up seventh in the league in save percentage.  On top of Reimer, Ben Scrivens showed he could more than carry the load in the absence of their starter.  If Reimer can keep his cool during the playoffs, this could be one of the bigger stories of the postseason. 

The fact is that Toronto finally has something they can be proud of.  The city as a whole can finally rejoice as they have made the postseason in a sport for the first time in five years.  They face a tough test in the Boston Bruins and with success only comes greater expectations.  They need to find a way to continue this kind of success.

The main reason that the Leafs are where they are is because of the man who never leaves the bench, Randy Carlyle.  He has brought a different mindset to this team.  He is the most important cog to this entire Maple Leaf machine.  The Leafs will go where their coach takes them.  Don't be surprised if that's to the second round, and maybe even beyond.

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