You can see it on twitter, you can see it on management’s faces and you can hear it when talking to other Leafs fans.
Nothing truly drastic has been done with this core and yet the mentality surrounding the beloved Blue and White has changed (for most who follow this team).
Last summer when Brendan Shanahan was brought into the organization you could feel a little bit of swagger return, but there were still voices of discontent. When Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter were brought in, it felt like the IQ increased but the body was still weak. On the ice, the Core remained the same and after a TERRIBLE 2014-2015 season, the natives were restless like no other time in recent Leafs history, justifiably so.
Ignore that debacle, but do not forget who the players were in that mess that reduced our already weakened team to a league wide laughing stock. Those same beaten down fans, taken down another level.
Fast forward to this summer and enter Mike Babcock. Initially, I wasn’t a fan of bringing Babcock on board, I felt like it wasn’t the right time to bring a Coach of his pedigree into a floundering franchise. And then it happened. Mike Babcock started to speak at his press conference and I was instantly transfixed. He WAS exactly what was required. He is our Leader and he is the new voice of the weak organization that just got injected with anabolic steroids.
This last weekend Mark Hunter reinforced the direction this team is heading by picking skill and speed in an almost redundant manner. We will require size to be added soon, but during the deepest skill Draft in recent memory I can see why he picked who he did. Many discussions on who “won” the Draft have pointed to the Leafs. It is ludicrous to suggest who won or lost at this point in time because we are judging young adults before they have even had a chance to become men. However, when people discuss what has changed at the Draft the consensus is always back to “Hunts”. This organization has failed at drafting pure talent for DECADES now. Squandered picks during trades and when we did have our own selections we haven’t made the most prudent of choices. Mark Hunter leading this team at the Draft table may be just as big as Coach Babcock leading the bench.
In order for the Maple Leafs to take the next step in our evolutionary chain it is now essential to clear out those pieces that bailed on this organization and it’s fan base last season. To start another campaign with this group of players is unacceptable and is not what this fan base needs or deserves. As Coach Babcock said this weekend “we are looking for good human beings” to be part of this organization. You will work hard, you will care, or you will be gone, simple as that. Row in the direction of the Coach or get the hell out of the boat.
We have the swagger, we have the intelligence and our frame is starting to gather the strength and size we need to compete in the NHL again. Its going to be a long road and “there will be pain” but as a Leafs fan you KNOW we are heading in the right direction even if you have never witnessed it during the last 10 years. Embrace the changes my friends, you deserve a little sunshine for the commitment you have shown to a Team and a Logo that is unparalleled in sports.
It is time for optimism.