Another week for the Maple Leafs, another series of mostly spirit-singeing letdowns mixed in with the occasional dollop of optimism to keep the “The End Is Nigh” critique artists from going fully ballistic.
And the toughest aspect — it isn’t even December. It could get way uglier. If Toronto is still seeking its 10th win of the regular season come February, Carlton the Bear may file an emancipation lawsuit against ownership, then hop on one of the last remaining Arctic ice floes in order to convert his image into something meaningful after all.
So what’s a Leafs fan to do until the end of the season? I’m glad I asked myself.
1. Go watch a Marlies game. I had a good laugh at advertisements a few years ago urging fans to “come see the Leafs of tomorrow — today!” I covered Toronto’s American League affiliate for its first two years after moving to Ricoh Coliseum from St. John’s in 2005 — and I can tell you with great certainty that, at the time, Torontonians were fully prepared to wait until tomorrow to see the Leafs of tomorrow.
Things are different now, however. Toronto’s management team has stockpiled some young players on their AHL squad who are worth paying to see — Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stallberg — and their ticket prices have dropped to a semi-reasonable level.
They’re not as individually talented as their NHL cousins, but the Marlies could be participating in playoff hockey games this spring. You almost assuredly won’t be saying that about the Leafs.
2. Start a “Where Will They Be Next Year?” pool. Toronto could have 11 unrestricted free agents this summer, so we know the 2010-11 Leafs will look significantly different from this year’s roster.
Why not have some fun with that fact? Grab some friends and have everybody submit guesses as to where those 11 players will play next season.
Considering the … um … diverse talent levels, destination options should include the NHL, AHL, European leagues and (forced) retirement.
Winner of the pool gets to beg off watching the Leafs until they start winning regularly again.