The Maple Leafs don’t have a good shot at making the playoffs this season. And Leafs fans should pray team management doesn’t make the same mistake it did when the franchise was in a similar situation two years ago.
Back then – which was Brian Burke’s initial (half)-season as Leafs GM – one of the first moves the new administration made was to claim veteran netminder Martin Gerber off waivers from Ottawa.
At the time of Gerber’s acquisition – in early March, 2009 – Toronto’s goalie cupboard was bare; starter Vesa Toskala was injured, while the other alternatives were an approximately 471-year-old Curtis Joseph and an alleged goalie-of-the-future in Justin Pogge (who since has been dealt to Anaheim and Carolina).
The Leafs had no chance of making the playoffs by that point, which made Gerber’s presence more than a little curious. And what wound up happening? Toronto won nine of their remaining 18 regular-season matchups (Gerber won five of those games) and finished 24th overall, depriving the franchise of a lottery pick which could have landed them a young star such as Matt Duchene, John Tavares, or Victor Hedman.
That isn’t to say Nazem Kadri, the player Toronto got in the 2009 draft with the seventh overall pick, won’t be something special. But few would compare him to Duchene, Hedman or Tavares – and the handful of extra wins Gerber added had no significant, lasting impact on the team.
Now let’s focus on the current situation. Toronto sits far back of the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference and it would take a minor-to-major miracle for them to make it.
So as the second half of the schedule – and the Feb. 28th trade deadline – approaches, Leafs Nation ought to hope Burke doesn’t fall into the same trap by acquiring a veteran or two as a stopgap measure. (That includes playing J-S Giguere heavily down the stretch.)
Short-term, the Leafs have to be as bad as they can. Otherwise, in the long-term, they’re bound to be what they’ve been since 2004: just bad enough to miss the playoffs and just good enough to miss the lottery.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.