As I write this, there are roughly six hours until the NHL Draft Lottery and we learn which team gets to draft Connor McDavid.
For the Maple Leafs, there is a 9.5% chance that they win and get the home town kid (who is a Leafs fan) with the potential to be an all-time great.
The Raptors first game of the Playoffs is on. The Blue Jays game is too, and they’re looking like they might be good this year. But I’m sitting upstairs alone in my room, distractedly writing this article and counting down the hours.
You see, as a life-long and hardcore Leafs fan, this is the day the franchise will pivot on for the next ten, maybe twenty years.
If this were a Disney Movie, we’d already know the answer: The Leafs would win the lottery and their rebuild would get the greatest kick-start in the history of rebuilds.
That’s because not only is McDavid a huge Leafs fan, but no franchise has been so shitty for so long. The Leafs haven’t even made a single Cup Final appearance since the NHL expanded from 6 teams. The two times they were closest ended in heartbreak and in improbable fashion against inferior teams.
The most beloved Leafs players since then have never been among the NHL’s elite. Sundin came closest, but among the players of his generation he was no Jagr, Lindros or Forsberg. No Sakic or Lidstrom or Pronger. Good, but metaphorically perfect for the team he played on: just not quite good enough.
They’ve never had the best player or the best defenseman or best goalie in the league, not once in the 30 years I’ve watched them.
They’ve never won a major award. (Unless you count the Selke, which I don’t. Hart. Norris. Vezina. Cup. Those are the only trophies that really matter).
They’ve never had a scoring leader, not since Gord Drillon.
That’s 1938 for those keeping track.
They’ve endured scandal, horrible ownership, more bad ownership.
They’ve made the Playoffs once since 2004.
Since then: too many horrible collapses to count.
They botched their chances at Eric Lindros, they cost themselves Scott Niedermayer and Robert Luongo.
Their chances at having a Norris Trophy defenseman were ruined when Bryan Berard took a stick in the eye, destroying the career of maybe the most talented young player the team has had in the time I’ve been watching them.
They traded away Tyler Seguin, Anton Stralman, Alex Steen, Tuukka Rask, John Gibson and Dougie Hamilton.
Then there was this season, which you and I both know isn’t worth rehashing here; we all know how brutal it was.
So, tonight, when the lottery balls are dropping, let them drop the right way. The Leafs haven’t had a shred of luck in twenty years. I’d say they are due.
I can’t wait to hear Andy Frost say “Ladies and Gentleman, Starting at Centre for your Toronto Maple Leafs………………Coooooooooooooooonor McDaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaavid.”
For once, I can guarantee you, the ACC will loud and the Raptors won’t even be playing.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.