In New York, the tabloids call the New York Mets The Amazins and while the grammar is shaky, the sentiment is pure.
It goes back to weather-beaten manager Casey Stengel who called the eventual 1969 World Series Champions “My Amazin’ Mets,”
Casey loved the word amazing. He once said of a prospect: "amazing strength, amazing power. He will be great, super even wonderful. Now, if he can only learn to catch a fly ball."
Forty-two years later, the Mets are still the Amazins and while no one would concede even so much as a playoff spot to the Maple Leafs, it is time to consider the most vexing words in sports…what if?
The Leafs are four points out of the playoffs and you can talk all you want about three-point games, the inevitable cool down and the illusionary strong play Leaf teams have turned in at the tail end of the last two seasons.
You can talk about their principal deficiencies, the lack of a number one centre and a puck-moving defenceman who can man the power play. GM Brian Burke has said he will deal with one at most.
But I will tell you something else. They have sheared a 14-point deficit at the All-Star Game to four. They have prospered with a goalie who seems to have no idea that he can’t step into the NHL and be an impact netminder. Phil Kessel
, their best player, isn’t just playing like their best player, he is playing like an elite player. Marlies callup Keith Aulie has mauled opposition forwards and Clarke MacArthur
has gone from unemployment to a career-high in goals.
Are the Carolina Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres or Atlanta Thrashers demonstrably better than the Leafs? Parity doesn’t just mean you’re as bad as everyone else. It also means you’re as good.
What if the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, a year that predates the birth of hundreds of thousands of Canadian children?
What if they finish the deal?
Sure they might get pounded in the playoffs, but at least the vast majority of players in the lineup will understand what April hockey is about. That’s worth something too.
Burke’s job is to balance the here and the now. He’s doing just that.
What if the Maple Leafs make the playoffs?
It would be Amazin’.