Change Has Got to Be in the Wind
So I get why Paul Maurice is riding his big horses hard these days. It may be counter-productive to the long-term needs of the franchise, but coaches are paid to win and players are paid to at least want to win.
I'm okay with all of that.
But soon, probably in the next week, the Maple Leafs are going to be all but mathematically eliminated from post-season play. Right now, with eighth place Philly on pace for 91 points, the Leafs need 12 wins in their final 14 games to just have a shot of making it, which is a mega-longshot for a team of players that has traditionally been satisfied with winning just enough to keep people of their backs.
Of those 14 games, 10 are against teams currently in possession of Eastern Conference playoff berths. Of the other four, three are against ninth place Buffalo, and one is against the Islanders, who are currently three points ahead of the Leafs.
I told you they weren't going to make it two months ago, and it's obvious to any reasonable person they aren't going to make it now.
But Maurice is paid to win, not be reasonable, so he keeps trying to win.
But when the Leafs get to the point - probably next week - when they have to run the rest of the table to get in to post-season play, it will be time for Cliff Fletcher to tell Maurice to call off the dogs and get serious about getting into a good lottery position.
As of today, the Leafs are 25th overall, just outiside of the top five lottery positions, and thus, just outside of having a shot at Steven Stamkos and the No. 1 selection.
Remember, last year Chicago went from fifth to first in the lottery, but that also means the odds are against it happening again. The two top positions are solidly in the possession of L.A. and Tampa Bay, so No. 3 in the lottery, currently held by Atlanta, is the best the Leafs can hope for.
But they've got to get there.
Right now, Maurice continues to use Vesa Toskala every game, and he doesn't appear too interested in playing the kids. Against the Devils on Tuesday, Jeremy Williams and Kris Newbury both got less than three minutes of ice time, while Jiri Tlusty played 6:28. Kyle Wellwood, mired in a horrible season, was allotted more than 15 minutes.
Playing Andrew Raycroft every third game and letting the kids play a regular shift isn't throwing in the towel, exactly, and that's what Maurice should be asked to do once the team gets to the must-win-every-game point.
Otherwise, counter-productive could become costly.