Leafs collapse seems to have come early this season

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In each of the previous three seasons, Toronto has had one stretch that turned what looked like a sure-thing into a disaster. In 2011-12 it was a 5-17-3 season-ending descent that cost them a playoff berth while in 2013-14 it was a 2-12-0 stretch in their final 14 contests. They actually did make the playoffs in 2013, but went on to blow a 4-1 lead in the third period of Game 7 of their first round series against the Boston Bruins.

The common theme there is that it was a season-ending slump, but the Leafs’ recent fall has been no less dramatic or devastating. Toronto has gone 3-14-0, which is its worst 17-game stretch since 1990, per Sportsnet. That amazingly came directly after a 10-1-1 run.

Toronto was 19-9-3 when this stretch started and had a comfortable seven-point cushion in the playoff race. At the time, the Leafs were far closer to the Atlantic Division title than the teams chasing them. To put it in another perspective, Sports Club Stats put their chances of making the playoffs at 95.22% at the end of their 10-1-1 run. Following their loss to Ottawa last night, the Leafs have fallen to 4.53%:

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The Maple Leafs are 10 points behind in the playoff race, which means they’ve suffered a 17-point swing over their slump. If there’s any silver lining at all to their collapse though, it’s the fact that it came early means there’s still an opportunity for them to end on a hopeful note. Maybe for the first time in years, the Maple Leafs can enter the summer with a sense of optimism instead of having the taste of complete defeat still fresh.

In the meantime, questions about the Maple Leafs’ future will linger. They’ve already fired head coach Randy Carlyle. Will changes to their core follow before the deadline? There’s certainly been a lot of speculation about Phil Kessel in particular and while it may prove to be unfounded, as a league executive recently told ESPN, he would generate a lot of interest regardless of his big contract if the Leafs decide to go that route.