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There's always hope in Leaf Nation

Columnist Bruce Penton writes about the Maple Leafs' season
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It’s like Groundhog Day in mid-February around headquarters at Canada’s two major sports networks: Every Feb. 15, Sportscaster Sam wakes up, look at the National Hockey League standings, and says to his disappointed Toronto-centric audience: ‘Sportscaster Sam is predicting another dismal finish to the season for the Leafs.’

Of course, a different iteration of the Groundhog Day theme occurs Oct. 1 every year, when those same sportscasters look at the Leafs’ roster, analyze their brilliant off-season moves, say the prerequisite prayers and proclaim that ‘This could be the Leafs’ year.’

The Leafs are not out of the running, not like Montreal Canadiens are out of the running, and not like the Senators from Ottawa are out of the running. The Leafs have reasonable playoff hopes, if they can outsell Florida Panthers for third in the Atlantic Division. Toronto’s post-season hopes took a hit when No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen went on the injured list with a ‘lower-body’ injury. (Could be a toe, an ankle, a calf, a bone spur, an achy knee or a hip, which is at the top of the human’s ‘lower body.’)

Desperate Leafs management, after watching backup Michael Hutchinson flop around like a drunk on a high wire, made a deal to acquire Los Angeles Kings’ backup goalie Jack Campbell (along with forward Kyle Clifford) in a trade that cost them underachieving forward Trevor Moore and a couple of draft picks. Campbell could be the answer to the Leafs’ prayers, but fans have to ask themselves: How much of a saviour will Campbell be if he had been serving as No. 2 goalie on the second-worst team in the entire league?

Just like with Groundhog Days, where there’s a groundhog sticking his nose into the air and sniffing the future, there’s always hope when a new body arrives. Unfortunately, Jack Campbell will discover that the players on the ice in front of him are the same ones who had been performing defensive duties in front of the drunk high-wire artist and his predecessor. Only three teams in the entire NHL, New Jersey, Ottawa and Detroit, have given up more goals than the Leafs.
But armed with a new coach (Sheldon Keefe) and a new goalie (Campbell), the Leafs could have a new approach moving into the final 20 per cent of the season. St. Louis came from the depths of last place last year to win the Stanley Cup. So anything’s possible. Those living in Leaf Nation always believe nothing’s impossible. Year after year after year.

  • @Jonathan_Dunphy, on Twitter: “BREAKING: Harry and Meghan have reached out to the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks for advice on living in Canada without a title.”
  • Torben Rolfsen (@vanguy) on Twitter after the Super Bowl: “World Champions”?!? What about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers? Let’s settle this two Sundays from now on Baffin Island.”
  • @Ned2point0, on Twitter: “I think the only logical way to handle the Pete Rose situation is to let him manage the Astros.”
  • Jay Hart of, suggesting Cleveland Browns might be a team considered by Tom Brady next year: “They did have Belichick before he was great, so it would be perfectly Cleveland to get Brady after he was great.”
  • Comedy writer Marc Ragovin, after the Democrats primary problems in Iowa: “This just in: 1957 Rose Bowl final: Iowa 35/Oregon State 19.”
  • Janice Hough of “So did Dodgers get David Price to make Clayton Kershaw feel better about his history in the postseason?”
  • Funny guy Brad Dickson of Omaha: “My concern is that Patrick Mahomes, who was already in 50 per cent of all TV commercials, will now star in 90 per cent of all TV commercials.”
  • Dickson again, on Twitter, as the Super Bowl game ended: “Now comes the hard part — carrying Andy Reid off the field.”
  • Comedy writer Jim Barach: “Some Chiefs fans were furious that players showed up at the Super Bowl parade drunk. That’s supposed to be the fans’ job.”
  • Headline at “Dodgers taking Betts, getting good Price.”
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, on speculation Tom Brady could sign with Tampa Bay: “Not to be mean, but putting Tom Brady on the Bucs would be like putting the Mona Lisa in Room 217 of the Red Roof Inn.”
  • Retired Newark Star-Ledger writer Jerry Izenberg, 89, to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, recalling the answer when he asked the late Chiefs great E.J. Holub why he was sweating so profusely before Super Bowl IV: “If we win this game, we get a $15,000 bonus. My wife has already spent mine.”
  • Snipped from Dwight Perry’s ‘From the Sidelines’: “Spotted on the readerboarrd of the El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas: ‘Did anyone catch the football game at the J-Lo and Shakira concert?’”

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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