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Misery Loves Company...

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
It has been just 18 days since the Leafs finished their regular season and boy, things are quiet.

No one is calling for Ron Wilson’s job. You can’t say the same thing for Mike Keenan, whose Flames were ousted in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks.

There are no calls for a massive teardown of a first-place team to correct a fault buried deep in the club’s foundation. You can bet they are saying just that in San Jose where the Sharks were knocked out by Anaheim after finishing first overall. The Ducks finished eighth.

There is no sign of the can’t-live-with-him-can’t-live-without-him Rangers who turned to and then away from Sean Avery in an attempting to recoup a series in which they came back to New York up 2-0. Much consternation will follow Avery’s future and that of coach John Tortorella who wants him not at all. Despite his goal in Game 7, the criticism of Nik Antropov for inconsistent offence will follow him into free agency.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, a great story through the season, ran their go-cart into the wall that is the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings’ sweep shattered any illusion of near parity between the two teams and while making the playoffs was nice, how far the Jackets really have to come is a sobering thought.

You can say the same thing for the St. Louis Blues who rallied to qualify for the post-season and were then turfed in four games by the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks outscored them 11-5 and the conclusions were every bit as daunting for the Blues as they were for the Jackets.

Let’s talk about the carnage to come in Montreal where everyone from Carey Price to Bob Gainey is on the hook for a miserable playoff loss to Boston. Martin Brodeur, only the best available living goalie was strafed for two goals in the final 1:30 in Game 7 against Carolina. His mantle of invincibility lies in chunks at his feet.

Remind me again why making the playoffs is so great?

Oh, I know, it’s in every player’s DNA. You want to get to the dance…blah, blah, blah.

It seems the only team that prospers in the Stanley Cup playoffs is the team that wins the Cup. Even that would be hard to prove in Detroit, where an unemployment rate that is over 20 per cent makes selling tickets even for the mighty Wings a mighty headache.

Never mind the heartache that comes with having your best players poached by teams whose cap space is predicated on the fact that they are lousy. I mean, how hard is it to have goalies who can’t stop and forwards who can’t score? Those are the teams with the most money to entice players, the same players a team has spent five or more years developing. The alternative is to sign them into doomsday and watch a shriveling economy make those contracts unsustainable. Yipee.

No, from where I sit, this whole not making the playoffs thing has its place. You are not ravaged in the press when your team is swept in the first round. No one suggests that regular season success is somehow an indictment of your team’s character as they do when you go out early. Expectations are manageable, you draft higher

There have been precious few ramifications for the teams that didn’t go to the playoffs. Jacques Lemaire resigned as the head coach in Minnesota. His general manager Doug Risebrough got the pipe. Craig MacTavish was relieved in Edmonton.

That’s it.

There will be more coaches or GMs fired for not winning in the playoffs than not qualifying for the post season. Where is the sense in that?

I’m telling you, you don’t need the playoffs.

But oh, how I miss them.

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