Don’t be fooled if the Maple Leafs go on a run and win a pile of games as the season unwinds.
It’s one thing winning when a playoff spot is on the line, but it’s something altogether different when a team’s out of the playoff picture ... which is basically the deal with the Leafs. A team should be judged on how they play when there’s something on the line, like a playoff spot.
As one of my Twitter pals pointed out, following Toronto’s 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting on Thursday, the Leafs will start to play well now that the end is near and will move up in the standings — not enough to make the playoffs, but enough to hurt their draft spot.
Let’s hope that Leafs GM Brian Burke isn’t fooled if his club finishes the season on a strong note. That is, beware of Big Burkie spouting off a sound bite about his team having the horses going forward if the Leafs should end the season on a positive note. Burke does have some horses, but the stable is still pretty bare.
So, it appears the Leafs will not make the playoffs in the first four seasons of Burke’s rebuild. Would it be too much to ask for a playoff spot in Year Five, next season? As for winning the Stanley Cup — which apparently is Burke’s ultimate goal here in Toronto — at this rate, the Buds will win the Cup in ... well, put it this way. The Leafs finished in 12th place in the Eastern Conference the season before Burke took over (2007-08) and they’re in 12th place now. Again ... Yikes.
It was wonderful that the feds coughed up some last minute dough for 11 sports federations heading to the London Olympics and Paralympics. But the question is, why did they wait until four months before the start of the Games? Any sport administrator will tell you, the earlier you get funding the better. The $2.3 million will be spread amongst 11 sports.
As usual, boxing gets the short end of the stick. As the great George Chuvalo once said, boxers don’t hold their little pinky in their air when they drink their tea, therefore the ‘establishment’ doesn’t like them. The feds are slowly strangling amateur boxing in this country by cutting their funding down to starvation levels. Politically correct organizations don’t like boxing.
Despite being one of the most popular sports at the Canada Games, boxing was recently dumped from that competition. It’s really sad. The only real publicity the national boxing team gets these days is the female boxers. Which is nice. But the men — whose depth of competition includes virtually every nation in the world — have become afterthoughts.
WHILE I’M AT IT
* Those Buffalo Bills are smart. A grumpy friend of mine, who’s a long time season ticket holder, informs me that only minutes after the Bills signed star defensive end Mario Williams, he got a phone call from the Bills asking him if he wanted to renew his season’s tickets. A week ago, my buddy was bitter about the Bills. (He’s bitter about a lot of things). Now he can’t wait to dish out the moolah.
* It’s nice to see James Reimer bounce back with a solid game, if only because Reimer is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in pro sports. And I’m not being sarcastic (for once).
* The whole ‘tank’ thing with the Leafs is ridiculous. How do you get 20 guys, whose very lifeblood is competition, to tank? It’s not even worth debating. The same for the Raptors.
WEENIE OF THE WEEK
Me. For initially thinking the woman beside me on the flight to Vancouver was some sort of nut job weirdo. Turns out she was waving her arms in air and talking to herself because she was seriously ill and in need of immediate medical attention. The good news is, I collected her stuffed animals in the storage compartment as they carted her off the airplane and gave them to the flight attendant. That probably won’t win me a Nobel Prize for Humanity, but I did do something.