March 27, 2007
Maurice has the answer
By JODY VANCE -- Sun Media
Are the Leafs going to make the playoffs?
That is the most FAQ I get these days working my Leafs TV gig.
It's too bad -- I must leave Leaf fans disappointed when I tell them, "I have absolutely no idea."
It's the truth.
I mean I hope Toronto makes it. My job will be just that much more fun; experience has shown me how much of a blast covering the Stanley Cup playoffs is.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the question, but I can't help wondering why these fans don't believe the one exceptionally qualified individual who has been asked, and has quite readily and wittily answered that question, repeatedly: Head coach Paul Maurice.
I asked him back in the fall, prior to Toronto's first preseason game, what he thought this group of guys might achieve down the stretch, and in his typically accommodating, way he agreed to look into his crystal ball.
"I expect this hockey club to be in a serious dogfight for a playoff spot."
He said it then, he's saying it now and let's face it, he is bang on.
The Buds have survived this season on grit and determination in this new NHL built on speed and agility.
Friday night in Buffalo the visitors were proven unworthy of competing with the beast of the East. Saturday erased that ugly night and was a fine example of how sometimes character and commitment trumps a team "built for the playoffs."
Paul Maurice's first season behind the bench in Toronto has seen the team spectacular and confident at best, inconsistent and sloppy at worst, and always, it seems, more than just a little injured.
An inflated number of man games lost to injury aside, Maurice is less about predictions and more about two possible scenarios for the weeks ahead. A successful dogfight would lead to some valuable post-season experience, conversely, losing that fight will leave them hungry for more in the '07/'08 season.
Fans will, no doubt, find the latter unacceptable. While it is an answer it is not the answer they are looking for when they pose their playoff question.
Truth be damned.
Jody Vance is a sportscaster with Leafs TV. Her columns appear Tuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours.