Remember in Home Alone 2, when the family lands in Miami and they are passing everyone’s luggage down the line – “Give this to Kevin” – only to find out that, “Kevin’s not here”? And then Catherine O’Hara finds out and is like, “Kevin’s not here lolz” before screaming, “KEVIN!” and faints?
Remember that hullabaloo?
Well, take the essence of that scene, apply it to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and congratulations! You’re now fully caught up on the last six playoff exits, dating back to 2013.
It’s the slow realizaton that you don’t actually have what you thought you did, and you’re about to boomerang yourself back into a horrible situation.
Now then, let’s get the official police statement – if you will – out of the way before I go any further.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were leading their first round playoff series, 3-1, against the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal won Game 5. Montreal won Game 6. And then Montreal won Game 7.
Okay, there it is. We don’t have to get into the specifics right now. Details shmetails. Lalalala not listening. Goodnight, nurse.
Why can’t we have nice things? As a fan base, why can’t we ever be rewarded? Why is it never easy? Why can’t be happy? Why can’t we have a moment of joy? Why? WHY?
I just stopped writing, so I could cover my face with my hands.
Why do we have lose our smile like Shawn Michaels in ’97?
Why are the “good old days” a one-hit wonder?
Why can’t this team love me back the way it did when I was a kid?
As far as I can tell, that’s been the worst thing about growing up. So, eat your heart out annual life crisis, and overall sense of purpose.
Twelve days ago, I wrote a blog post entitled: This Isn’t About 1967.
I was positive. I was optimistic. Gosh darn it, I was dancing in the moonlight before the moon had even come out.
I was trying to unburden ourselves from the pain and disappointment of the past. Like a lemon in hot water, let’s flush out the toxins and support the team that is here right now.
Well, kumba-ya failed, Paul.
The Leafs are who we thought they were.
I really don’t know where to go from here. There is no more road. The GPS has disappeared like some sort of Marauder’s Map. The MapQuest directions are outdated.
I don’t know which way to go. Toward the North Star? Dallas?
The Leafs haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. Oh my God. I was in Grade 7. I had just started squinting at the board from the back of the classroom. I did a speech on, “A Day in the Life of the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
And now I’m writing a blog post called, “Only Pain”.
Connect the dots in your life, at your own peril.
Am I dumb? Do I not know what a good hockey player looks like? Have I been misguided?
I’m not the only one who looked at this team and thought it was the best team we’ve had in years. Right? Hands up. We’re in this together.
That’s what makes this collapse so baffling.
We had the horses.
WE HAD THE BLOODY HORSES.
You know who didn’t have the horses? Montreal didn’t have the horses.
They didn’t have the Rocket Richard winner on their team.
They didn’t have two of the top five point leaders in La Ligue nationale de hockey.
They didn’t have the scoring depth, or the size up front.
They had Carey Price. No doubt. I love Carey Price. I’ll never say a bad word about him. He’s phenomenal. Cool as a cucumber, freshly picked.
They also relied on four big, burly defensemen to play a ton of minutes. Fine. Drink milk, love life.
Montreal was always going to scratch, strategize, and scheme, but at least we could hang our hat on the fact that WE had the horses to get the job done over the course of a seven game series.
In the end, having the horses meant nothing. Absolutely nothing.
So, again. Am I dumb? I know it’s dangerous to judge a team on paper, but if there were ever a year to look at a team on paper and attach a chariot to it, it was this one. Right?
The FIRST PLACE Toronto Maple Leafs. The team that won 7 of 10 games against the Canadiens during the regular season.
If there were ever a team to believe in, it was this one. And they sent us home at the first Rose Ceremony.
A friend asked me after Game 6 how I was feeling. I said, “I’m not surprised, but I’m also surprised.”
Toronto was the best team for most of this series. Game 7 ended and I found myself searching the corners of what’s left of my mind, for instances of when Montreal even had the puck.
I just don’t know anymore.
If not this team, then what team?
Even if the team is good next season, how am I supposed to enjoy it? What a sad thought to have, isn’t it?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me six times, you get to kick an extra point.
Why does every other team make it look so easy? Carolina has some young players leading the way right now, that aren’t even household names. Where are their growing pains?
Do we need to start playing “Rock You Like A Hurricane” before every game? Do we need to get Ric Flair to sound the siren?
What’s the answer? What is the recipe that avoids disaster?
Somebody find me the formula, so I can solve for WHY this keeps happening.
Is blue too passive of a colour? Do we need to remodel the dressing room and wear our green St. Pats uniforms more often?
Is Toronto the problem?
Is the media the problem? Are they being too critical? Or is it that they never shut up?
Our Captain gets taken off on a stretcher in Game 1 and we are met with the most insensitive, tasteless photo and headline imaginable on the front of a tabloid the next day.
What a downright embarrassment.
I’m not saying coddle the team and bring them orange slices. I’m saying have basic human decency.
The team hasn’t won a playoff series in the social media era. Is that the problem? It’s probably a part of it, honestly.
Imagine you open an app to scroll through photos and you’re met with a barrage of comments telling you how awful you are. I can promise you that their salary does not cushion that blow; I don’t care how much money they make.
As I’m in the middle of this rant about a team that constantly breaks my heart, the catharsis is setting in, and I do feel bad for the players.
If you’ve ever played team sports and felt like you lost a game because of a mistake you made – you feel like the bee’s butt (I’m assuming this is the antonym to “bee’s knees”).
Cried myself to sleep one night because I couldn’t find the strike zone to save my life. Sure, I was 12, but whatever. You wear the guilt even if it’s not your size.
So, I just hope Jack Campbell didn’t go to sleep last night thinking this was on him because it’s not. At all.
The players don’t want this legacy. They don’t want to be run out of town. They wanted to win together. It didn’t happen.
Yeah, okay…”Play better!”
And…”Play with urgency!”
I get it! I yell it at the TV too!
At the same time, I don’t know what ails this organization. It’s everything and it’s nothing – it’s this, that, and the other. It’s stuff that we may not ever be privy to from this side of the television screen.
That is why this is so incredibly frustrating. Put the characters in a different situation and the same plot unfolds.
It’s the airport scene in Home Alone 2.
Kevin’s not here.
And neither are the Toronto Maple Leafs.