Maurice makes a statement

JODY VANCE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:31 AM ET

When the puck drops on pre-season for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, cue the diehards -- as it is time to utter four little words that have haunted them in spring all too often: "This is our year."

You know you've thought it or perhaps posed it as a question.

Fans ask me all the time, in the grocery store, at a Jays game -- everywhere fans beg for this to be the year the Leafs go all the way.

They crave someone on the inside to tell them it is possible.

The popularity of the powers that be at MLSE went way up with their recent public pronouncement of determined optimism.

Last week, as "Maurice Camp II" continued at the Ricoh Coliseum, both coach Paul Maurice and GM John Ferguson clearly stated that the Leafs "will compete for the cup."

Bold. Refreshing. Risky?

To clarify: They did not say the Leafs "will win the cup.'

A statement like that would be foolhardy at best and would most certainly haunt the team with every tough loss found in any season.

Let's face it; making the playoffs certainly would constitute a huge step in the right direction for a club that has missed the post season by "that much" in recent years. Obviously this is a mandate from on high - this bold statement, said with such calm determination, speaks to how the man behind the bench will run this team.

Last year, like any inaugural season in a new town for an NHL coach (save maybe Mike Keenan) there was a cautious feeling-out period. It would appear that any testing of the waters is over for P.M. He not only survived in the fishbowl that is the centre of the universe, but he showed very few, if any, chinks in the armour through pressure-filled days and nights.

In fact, Maurice seemed nothing short of fearless as he put his plan to the masses confidently, without hesitation or carefully chosen words.

Tonight it all begins in Edmonton, and fans wonder if this will indeed be their year. We all can agree that this beats the question of the last few seasons: "Who will play with Mats?"

-- Jody Vance is a longtime sportscaster and personaility with Leafs TV. Her columns appearTuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours.


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