Ed. Note: Lots of holiday reading going up today for you guys. Merry Christmas.
Here we are the Christmas break, and Iâ€™d like to take the time to look back at what we saw in September, what we expected by Christmas and what we envision for the future of the Blue and White.
Everyone probably knows by now that I am not, nor ever have been, a fan of tank nation. Having come from a family of athletes, with one member a former Leaf himself, I find it hard to swallow the pill that is tanking a season. My make up simply wonâ€™t allow me to consider it. Iâ€™ve taken flack for that, but thatâ€™s just the way I am. I don’t apologize for it.
So coming into the season, I was cautiously optimistic about the fortunes of our beloved Leafs.
Of course, there was going to be a sort of re-build. It was obvious something had to be done.
I had to accept that Bryan McCabe and others I had come to admire, would not be around.
I had to accept the idea that Mats Sundin might well have played his last game as a Leaf. We all know now how that worked out. Money talks and bullshit walks. Enough said.
Back in September it looked as though it would be a rough season of ups and downs, and Cliff Fletcher did a nice job of lowering expectations so that a brutally bad team would be more easily accepted by Leafs Nation.
The ups have come and gone, the downs have come and gone, and lo and behold, we sit here looking at a team hovering around .500 with a legitimate chance of pushing for a playoff berth.
Seventh in the NHL in offense? Whoâ€™d have thunk it?
With every Christmas season comes change and Brian Burke, no surprise, arrived a couple of weeks ago, and sits poised on the trade button, awaiting the beginning of January and the transactions that come with it.
Or does he?
Do we believe that Burke is sitting with pen in hand and phone to ear, ready to wheel and deal and blow this thing up?
Or are we thinking that maybe he will tweak and tinker and oil a few gears and make this group of players his team by saying â€œless is moreâ€.
Iâ€™m hoping for the latter. Sure, one of the big Czech defenders probably has to go, and in return, a speedy, offensively talented and defensively aware forward would serve the purpose.
The additions of Grabovski, Hagman, Stempniak, Finger and young Luke Schenn have this team achieving at a level higher than anyone expected. Wilson has them firing on all cylinders, at least right now, and several leftovers from last yearâ€™s squad have finally bought into the system.
There is a lot of work to do, trust me. Weâ€™re not talking about the Chicago Blackhawks here.
There is just not enough talent to compare, but hard work and dedication to a certain system will go a long way in todayâ€™s NHL. And a productive and smart 2009 draft will bolster what is already there.
Personally, I will have a hard time accepting the â€œblow it upâ€ mentality if Burke happens to take that approach. Moves need to be made, but not as many as we thought three months ago.
So, on to 2009, good people, and a Merry Christmas to all.
Ed. Note: This same type of re-building debate took off in my last post-game blog. Here were some of the responses for your perusal. Feel free to add your two cents in the comments section.