I am currently sitting in a dark room watching a Saturday Night Live episode from the year 2000. The musical guest is U2 and they’re performing, “Beautiful Day”. It is beautiful, really. For a few minutes, I am distracted.
But now, I need another distraction. Something to take my mind off of the Toronto Maple Leafs losing Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. I cannot go to sleep. I cannot lay down. I say that more literally than you know.
It is almost midnight, so at least I can do tomorrow’s Wordle soon.
Honestly, I do not know what to do with myself. I have already done the post-mortem Leafs chat with a friend.
There really is no clear direction for this post. I am just going to type out words, so they no longer exist in my head.
I keep flipping through songs, thinking I will find the one that fits how I am feeling right now. That song is elusive. I will let you know if I find it by the end of this post.
The Leafs have not won a playoff series since 2004. I remember that year all too well. I remember all of those playoff runs of the early 2000s, actually. It felt like they would last forever. They did not.
This is where I would normally mention other statistics, relating to the last six years, but this is not that kind of post.
All of those numbers have become cumbersome. They are an albatross around this fan base. We do not need them right now. They can wait outside.
When the final buzzer went and the Leafs were eliminated, I was not mad. I was not angry.
And maybe this is wrong to say, but who cares – I was proud of the team. I was proud of the way they fought. That is me being honest.
There will be people who say, “Oh, you are so used to losing that you have come to accept it.”
Sure, there are things to be bitter about. There are things to complain about. That is what you do when you lose. You cycle through all the “what ifs” and “if onlys”. Because if the series of events that we just witnessed were altered at certain points, perhaps the end result is different.
I am not here to publicly criticize anyone.
This loss hurts, but I am struggling to find ways to expand upon that. This would be easier if I were angry, but I am not.
It was always going to be tough to take down the reigning, defending, back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. And with a 3-2 series lead, maybe the Leafs should have. Maybe they should have found a way to win one of the two final games in the series.
But that is just it – maybe.
Not every team can be the team of destiny. I, and other Leaf fans, are so focussed on the story our team is writing that we, sometimes, fail to realize that other teams are also writing their own story at the same time.
That Lightning team is headed toward becoming a dynasty and we just got in their way.
Everyone who was supposed to show up for the Leafs, showed up. I think the Leafs outplayed the Lightning for the majority of the seven games. That is where my absence of words comes from.
It feels like a password has been rejected, even though we entered it correctly.
But the Lightning are champions for a reason and epitomized the Rocky Balboa quote:
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
They kept moving forward.
This elimination feels different than all the ones that came before it. I will say that. In the past, it felt like the team was scared, or intimidated, by the moment. This year, it looked like they were confident. They looked ready for it.
Again, we do not receive anything for being confident or trying hard, but it should be acknowledged.
Does something have to change?
That is the question.
Maybe I am so far gone that I cannot think rationally anymore, but I still would not fire the Coach, General Manager, or President. I still would not trade anyone out of our core. I might be in the minority with that, and perhaps I am wrong, but that is just how I feel right now.
I think this franchise spent a decade looking for the star players we currently have. To give up on them now, you have to be certain that what you receive back makes you a better team. You cannot guess. You cannot hope. You cannot make a trade for the sake of making a trade. You have to be sure.
Perhaps it is a flaw of mine to sometimes view this team from a fictional standpoint. However, I see a team that has struggled to take the next step and in my head, I always give them that happy ending. The whole, “struggle will be worth it” narrative. Just keep going.
I cannot help it. The alternative is that we fail to get out of the first round forever and I just refuse to believe that.
This team will turn the corner, eventually. That is what I believe. And it will be magical.
I am not ready for the Leafs season to be over, but I never am. It is okay. I am okay.
Over the next few days, I will be doing my best to avoid all the Leafs talk amongst the local media. I am just tired of hearing it. I could lay out all of the talking points for you right now. They are the same ones after every season.
It is just too much.
I never did find a song to fit how I am feeling, if you were wondering.
I think I got all the words out. Thanks for listening.