|Posted by Brendan Munro on March 7, 2012 at 10:45 PM|
It will be a long, painful stretch drive for a pair of Canadian teams.
The Calgary Flames and the Toronto Maple Leafs have made a habit in recent years of putting together heartbreaking drives for the postseason. This year, another replay of this sad spring ritual seems to be underway. A month ago, the Leafs sat in a playoff spot, their own destiny in their hands and a playoff birth seemingly within their reach for the first time since 2004. Fast forward a few weeks and the Leafs are in 12th place after winning only 2 of their last 10 games. Their coach Ron Wilson has been fired and forward Joffrey Lupul is sidelined with a shoulder injury. The Leafs seemed destined to drag themselves through the final weeks of a season in a death march reminiscent of Ben-Hur in the desert.
Further West, a familiar scene is playing out, but this time with a twist. Typically, March is the month when Jarome Iginla and the Flames go on a tear in an improbable race upwards from the basement on their way to the final playoff spot. This year, however, the Flames are heading in the opposite direction, needing to pass 3 teams in their final 15 games. While they only sit 2 points back, their lack of games in hand makes them appear closer to that final sot than they actually are. Recent losses to Dallas, Phoenix, Anaheim and an embarrassing 6-1 defeat at the hands of the lowly Edmonton Oilers have been devastating to their playoff chances.
While fans, media and the players themselves in these markets remain hopeful, I am highly sceptical of both the Flames and Leafs ability to not only correct their slides, but race past several teams during the most competitive stretch of the regular season. I suspect that both of these stories will end in another spring filled with tears for fans and long days on the golf course for the Flames and Leafs.