You can never give up hope especially with 51 games remaining in the NHL schedule but with the Toronto Maple Leafs currently eight points out of a playoff spot with four teams also ahead of them to get there the odds are pretty stacked against them.Â Last season I believe only one team made the playoffs that werenâ€™t already officially among the top eight seeds as of December 1/2009 and that was the Philadelphia Flyers and we all remember how they managed to squeak in.Â
One could argue that they [Flyers] probably should have been in the race from the first game of the season given the roster of talent they possess and eventual trip all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.Â Nobody would make that same argument for this yearâ€™s version of the Leafs and while there is always a chance, I am not overly optimistic.Â
So if we arenâ€™t looking at a playoff berth what are we playing for?Â
Iâ€™d say the Leafs are playing for hope.Â Hope that some of their youth takes some meaningful strides, whether it is Nazem Kadri, Jonas Gustavsson or Luke Schenn, we want to show progress.Â Another motivating factor in the back of everyoneâ€™s mind is the fact that the Boston Bruins own the Leafs first round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry draft.
If the ping pong balls fall the way they should, here is the current drafting order:
Â Things look pretty bleak at first glance however the Leafs are only four points from moving seven spots in the standings to a more acceptable tenth position overall.Â They need to get out of that bottom five and to start making up some ground on the teams in front of them.Â Who knows what a hot streak could do for them in terms of possibly even getting back into striking distance of the playoff teams.Â
One would also have to assume the New Jersey Devils will eventually find their games this season so we canâ€™t afford to stall or go into another long losing streak.Â The ramifications could be swift and brutal if the Leafs give up the #2 overall pick in the draft again in 2011 and I am sure Brian Burke is still actively looking to improve this team for that very reason.