If this young Maple Leafs team does the improbable and makes the NHL playoffs this year, look back to December 10th. That was the 2-1 overtime win at home over Pittsburgh. It was their best and complete effort of the season as they matched the defending Stanley Cup champs stride for stride. But it was like a light switch turned on for this team, like they figured out what Mike Babcock means when he talks about “playing the right way.” Now the Leafs sit 3 points back of Boston with games in hand in the division and 4 back with 3 games in hand on Philly in the wild card. And they have 17 games left against their mediocre division, only one of those against Montreal and only one west coast trip left. I stated I didnt expect this team to challenge for a playoff spot until next year. The fact we can even discuss the possibility realistically halfway through the season is truly a pleasant surprise. There’s no question the Leafs need upgrades on defence, but if management pursues this at the trade deadline, they need to make a true hockey trade versus dealing picks and/or prospects for a rental. Stick to the Shanaplan. Here’s hoping for meaningful hockey in March.
Blue Jays or Crickets?
A lot of fans are understandably frustrated at the lack of action by the Jays front office and departure of Edwin Encarnacion to Cleveland for less money than Toronto offered. They still need a corner outfielder, bullpen help and a back up catcher. To me the priority must be to beat Boston head to head. With lefties Sale and Price, the best remaining free agent bats head to head are Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista. They need to sign one of them. That said, I believe the front office has earned the benefit of the doubt after last season and it is too early to panic in this late developing market.