The Maple Leafs start a new season tonight and like most Leaf fans I'd love to see them do well. Not only make the playoffs but hang around for a few rounds.
Missing the playoffs the last two years has made a Leaf fan long for the good old days of making it to the conference final a few times in the past 40 years.
But from my perspective, it doesn't look good. No doubt the Leafs have improved themselves with the acquisition of Jason Blake and Mark Bell, but Blake's going to have the weight of the world and great expectations on his shoulders to score 40 goals again, and Bell won't be able to play until November and after that it will take him a while to settle in. By then the Leafs could be out of the race.
You may have noticed that I didn't mention Vesa Toskala as part of the Leafs improvement, and I do that because I can't.
From my perspective the jury's still out on this guy. Being the number one goaltender in Toronto is a long leap from being a back-up in San Jose. If Vesa Toskala think's he's been under pressure before, he ain't seen nothing yet.
I hesitate to say "the poor guy" because he's under contract to make enough money to last him the rest of his life, but having that contract in hand and having to deal with a porous defense and fans who often come across as moronic will make his life a lot more difficult than it was in Northern California.
And there's another problem staring the Leafs in the face. Their lack of skill.
Mats Sundin has it, and Tomas Kaberle has it and Jason Blake may have some goal scoring skill, but beyond that the Leafs have nothing but a bunch of grinders and players who from time to time display some skill but have no finish.
Guys like Kyle Wellwood, Alex Steen, Matt Stajan and Alex Ponikarovsky- guys who won't take the Leafs anywhere until they move to the next level.
Watching the Leafs play teams like Buffalo and Ottawa lets you appreciate the wide gap in skill level. It's almost embarrassing.
Yes, the Leafs have improved their roster this year but so have a few other teams in the Eastern Conference which means squeezing into the top eight is going to be just as difficult as it was last year.
A lot of things have to go right in order for the Leafs to make the playoffs this year, but I don't think they have the horses to make it happen.