Sometimes I think about an entire decade lost. For the better part of the 90’s, I considered Leafs playoffs hockey as a ritual. I would often say “It’s like Christmas but better!” Being disqualified from the postseason was like a knife in the chest back then.
“I have to wait a whole year?”
At some point, that changed. The expectation of spring hockey was replaced with talk of draft picks and coaching changes. Leaf fans went into a hibernation of sorts. Now, on the eve of the second playoff series in almost 15 years, we wake from a coma. “What year is it?” We ask as the rest of the league exchanges worried glances.
Sometimes conventional explanation fails in times like these and that is why, when left with more questions than answers, I turn to Wendel 92:93. I hope it helps.
In the beginning, Shanahan rebuilt the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs were formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the rink and Shanahan was hovering over the ice in the executive suite.
And Shanahan said, “Let there be Babcock,” and there was Babcock. Shanahan saw that Babcock was good, and he separated the bench decisions from the back office. Shanahan called the bench decisions “a safe environment for the players,” and the back office decisions, he called “the tear down.” He declared immediately a prophecy… “there will be pain.”
And there was Kessel, and then there was Kapanen. And Shanahan said, “Let there be Lou.” And Lou would separate the long term injury reserve under the ACC from the ice above. And it was so. And Shanahan so loved Leafs Nation, that he gave his only begotten first overall pick, and whoever believeth in him shall not golf, but have everlasting playoff hockey.
Babcock gathered his flock “Some of you shall develop. Some thirty, some sixty and some ninety fold. Let he who is without the Leafs all time rookie goal scoring record, shoot the first puck” and Auston shot four.
And Babcock said unto Auston “Act like a pro, live like a pro and thou shalt be a pro.” And he was a pro.
But there was James Van Riemsdyk who still doubted. So they Chartered a fishing boat. Auston called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. “Only media distractions.”
Auston said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some sweet sweet Tarpon.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of sweet, sweet Tarpon and they took selfies.
So even the Senators would admit that Auston led all Calder eligible players.
Auston would be led into the goalless wilderness for 13 days and 13 nights to be tempted of one dimensional play.
The tempter Patrick Laine came to him and said, “If you are the best player of the 2016 draft, forsake responsible 200 foot play and we shall pick supple cherries,”
Auston answered, “It is written: Man shall not live on snipes alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of Babcock”
Then Patrick Laine took him to the holy city and scored a Hat-trick against him in an overtime thriller. The tempter said “If you are a good pro, why do I take 2 points and you only 1?”
Auston replied: “It is also written, not at the expense of two way play.”
Again, Laine tempted him: “Follow me and you shall feast on 5 v 4 goals and rule the NHL.”
Auston again replied: “Turn away from me Laine! Do you even pro? Bro?”
And it was for Auston’s trials and sacrifice that we may now say. In the name of the Marner, the Mathews and the holy Nylander.
“Let there be playoffs”