Michael Langlois over at Vintage Leaf Memories tackled exactly this question on Sunday, asking if Leaf fans would rather have a lottery pick or a playoff berth. Six short weeks ago, we were all excited at the prospect of playing meaningful hockey down the stretch and at certain points even looked to be in the driver's seat for playoff positioning.
A week ago, we found ourselves at the tail end of a fall so precipitous that a lottery pick was almost expected. After reeling off back-to-back wins though, we find ourselves caught in the middle of two tolerable outcomes; hockey's dead-space.
I've heard a lot of people say that no matter what the outcome is for the Leafs that we as fans will find a way to justify why it's a good thing. The truth is, there are good things that can be pulled out of any scenario. Making the playoffs in any capacity would be a clear positive for the franchise and would provide some much needed playoff experience to a young core of players. Getting a lottery pick is an opportunity to add a true blue chip talent to our prospect pool. Finishing the season strong while still missing the playoffs would be a sign of progress under the new coach and would provide some confidence for the team heading into next season.
Each of these scenarios also carries with it some negatives as well. Tanking could mean a losing culture. Getting crushed in the playoffs would mean a worse pick and possible confidence issues heading into the next season. Finishing in the middle means a so-so pick and no playoff experience.
I suppose my point here is that no matter what happens, things aren't all bad. Now that the playoffs are all but a mathematical impossibility, my preference would be to see the team land in the lottery but, while I feel this is the best of the two remaining outcomes, I also understand that it isn't without its risks.
Now for the hits;
1. With the Sarnia - London game televised on Sportsnet Friday night, I'm sure I'm not the only Leaf fan who was concerned when Alex Galchenyuk went down with an apparent shoulder injury. This kid seems like the guy that all of Leaf Nation has their collective eyes on barring the Leafs vaulting into a top-2 or 3 selection.
2. I find myself torn between hoping that the Knights have a long playoff run or wanting to see them bounced early to have McKegg skate with the Marlies in the AHL playoffs. Would love to see him get some PP time with Kadri before the latter makes the jump to the NHL.