To recognize just how badly the Toronto Maple Leafs need to make the playoffs you must consider not only their run of futility and how the once flagship franchise is now the butt of jokes. You must also go back to one game in March.
It was in Boston on March 19, the final game in their season series against the Bruins, a series they lost 0-6, that the Leafs showed how woeful they were in 2011-12. They were in the midst of a tailspin that saw them drop out of the playoff race and this game, an 8-0 shellacking, provided the exclamation mark to their slide.
The Bruins, who outscored Toronto in those 6 games, 36-10, had an easy time and it surely was the game that Leaf fans, if they hadn't already, turned to other pursuits, anything other than following a team that showed they lacked goaltending - Reimer made 5 saves and allowed 4 goals on the night, Gustavsson wasn't much better - and leadership, along with heart. Toronto cannot afford to let such a team take to the ice again, certainly Brian Burke and Dave Nonis wouldn't keep their jobs if they did, which brings Luongo and Nash into the equation.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Cap Hit room
They are arguably the two biggest names out there. Nail Yakupov? Acquiring the first-pick from Edmonton to select Yakupov isn't going to do anything for 2012-13, and Burke would have to give up one of his better young players to do it, someone he might use to get Luongo and/or Nash.
Luongo is still a top-flight goalie and at just 33 has years left. A cap-hit of 5.3 has to be expected for a goalie of his caliber and he's a proven winner. Nash is a top-flight power forward and the 28-year-old (he turns 28 the day this was written, June 16) has oodles of talent. In Columbus he's had a 40 goal season and manged 4 seasons out of 7 where he scored over 65 points.
Like Luongo, who has his favorite goalie coach, Francois Allaire in Toronto, along with asst. GM Nonis, the guy who traded for him in Vancouver, Nash has extra incentive to go to Toronto; he is from nearby Brampton, played for the London Knights in the OHL and he grew up watching the Leafs. To add to it all, Luongo and Nash were teammates when Canada won gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Yes, Nash's cap hit of 7.8 hurts, and combined with Luongo's hit the numbers add up, but Toronto has $13.5 million in space. There are other signings to make but given assets will be going the other way, and that Burke excels at this sort of thing, and there hasn't been playoff hockey in Hogtown since 2004, it comes down to 'if there's a will, there's a way.'
And after that 8-0 loss, there has to be a will.