TSN's Dave Hodge sounds off on all the hockey issues of the day in Hodgemail. Write in to answer Dave's weekly question and watch the NHL on TSN tonight to see if he reads your response.
Things really couldn't have gone much worse for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. While GM Brian Burke and company weren't exactly expected to win the Stanley Cup heading into the campaign, they also weren't expected to finish 29th, handing Tyler Seguin to Boston at the NHL draft.
But this isn't about rehashing the past, it's to determine where the Leafs are now compared to last season.
Are they better off?
The Leafs sit 12th in the Eastern Conference and 12 points out of a playoff spot. And the Phil Kessel trade still looms large for Leaf fans with another potential lottery pick going to the Bruins this June.
But there's been signs of promise as well. Clarke MacArthur already has a career-high 37 points and is playing on an impressive line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. Call-up James Reimer dazzled the team in his brief stint in goal.
Toronto also has one of the youngest teams in the National Hockey League, something that could bode well down the road if they continue to stick with their core.
But this isn't about the past or the future, it's about the present.
So here's Dave's question to you: "Have the Maple Leafs taken a step forward, a step back, or neither this season?"
And here are the answers that Dave liked best:
"The Leafs are very young, so it's baby steps they're taking, but older should mean better eventually."
Pete, TSN Facebook
"It's a step back because there is no first round pick. What does that tell you about next year?"
Sandy, TSN Facebook
"You left out pirouette….as in…..going in circles."
Rudy, Elliott Lake, ON
"The Leafs are like the kid at the mall who tries to walk up the down escalator."
"The Leafs are the same. The food is better. Waffles now."
And Dave's reply to all:
It's easy to say the Leafs are better because they're not the last-place team in the East, and they're not the worst power-play and penalty-killing team in the league, and they're not giving up as many goals as they were when they were next-to-worst in that department.
So sure, there have been improvements, but hardly dramatic improvements.
Clarke MacArthur was a nice free-agent pickup; it's always nice when you can add a player for a million bucks and he becomes your leading scorer, but actually, that's not good news, because somebody else should be the Leafs' leading scorer.
Somehow, goals-against are down without the goalkeepers looking better.
Nazem Kadri is a disappointment if you thought he would be a Calder candidate, or if you thought he would be in the NHL, but otherwise, he is, at best, next season's reason for hope.
And the Leafs are a young team, but also a team without a rookie good enough to play regularly. I'm not sure what that means,
A step forward or a step back? Small in either case, so let's say neither. You move, the treadmill doesn't.