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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Tough Way to End It, by John Ferguson, GM, The Toronto Maple Leafs

Sunday, the New Jersey Devils scored with seconds winding down to push their final game with the New York Islanders into overtime. A Devils win would have pushed us into the playoffs. Thank god the Islanders won in penalty shots. The last thing we needed was more work in the form of weeks upon weeks of ‘playoffs’ – ugh.

It was a close end to the season. On Saturday, we fucked up and came back from two goals down to defeat Montreal and eliminate them, but we held confidence in the fact that the Islanders would end it for us. Looking back, I thought we needed to get less than 92 points to avoid the playoffs. We got to 91 and we left it to chance. We ended up on the right side of the shootout, but man was that close.

Admidst the sea of cameras on the doorstep of the Leafs dressing room yesterday afternoon, my boys explained that in the end, they know what it’s all about. “I'm happy, personally," said Andrew Raycroft, the goalie who was pulled from the biggest game of the season. "I got to play a lot of games – but all the ‘work’ is over now! See y'all in five months, motherfuckers!” It’s heartwarming to hear Raycroft pat himself on the back for really pooching games when we needed him to, despite winning 37 of them.

When asked about prospects and possible changes for next year, Darcy Tucker said “My personal opinion is I don't think we're far off where we need to be to avoid a championship until after Global Warming makes the formation of ice impossible.”

Towards the end of the season, injuries to our experienced players really took the wind out of our sails. It was an opportunity for a lot of young players to come in and be productive, which made our job even harder. I’m talking about players like Colaiacovo, White, Stajan, Steen. Pohl had 13 goals, that sunofabitch! These are players who will reprimanded.

Because of our young core, we’ll be a better team next year and will have to work even harder to extend our 40 year streak of mediocrity.

But that’s what makes this team so damn exciting.

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