Let’s look at the results of the last six games the Leafs have played.
Saturday, February 9 – Victory over the Red Wings (ranked 1st in the West)
Thursday, February 7 – Victory over the Canadiens (ranked 3rd in the East)
Tuesday, February 5 – Loss to the Panthers (ranked 12th in the East)
Saturday, February 2 – Victory over the Senators (ranked 1st in the East)
Thursday, January 31 – Loss to the Hurricanes (ranked 10th in the East)
Tuesday, January 29 – Loss to the Blues (ranked 12th in the West)
Sure, a .500 stretch over six games is pretty good for the Buds these days but looking at who they’re beating and who they’re losing to really sums up this team. The three victories were against teams with an average conference ranking of 1.6 while the three losses were against teams with an average of 11.3.
It’s clear that the players have given up on this season, as I am sure many of their fans have as well. They get up for the games against the big name teams but then disappear against the lower echelon clubs.
It begs the question: at this point in the season, can we blame them for not giving their all, night in and night out? Yes, they’re being paid millions of dollars to do their job, but these guys want to win and it’s not going to happen this year.
Professional sports rewards winning, but it also rewards losing. The Leafs are currently looking at a possible No. 1 draft selection next year; the more they lose the more likely they are to get it.
There are other rewards for losing as well. If you’re an elite player – let’s say Mats Sundin – the more you lose the more likely you are to be traded to an elite team. As a natural consequence of this scenario, the non-elite players win too (by losing). A player like Mats Sundin would bring in some draft picks and prospects that the non-elite players could play beside the following year.
I’m not saying they should try to lose (the Senators were fined $100,000 in 1993 after it was found they were intentionally losing games) and I’m not saying that they are trying to lose. I just don’t think they’re trying to win.