Do Leafs have what it takes?

The Toronto Maple Leafs may just be the hardest working losers in the National Hockey League. The Leafs are at the very bottom of the Eastern Conference, looking up at the rest of the NHL. But, are they the worst team in the league?

Well, technically, yes.

Nonetheless, it is not impossible for this team to make the playoffs.

There are obvious differences to the Leafs, they are bigger and meaner. GM Brian Burke said he was tired of watching his team getting pushed around like a bunch of babies and naturally he changed this.

Also, the Buds have had just as many if not more shots on goal than their opponents in eight out of their 12 games this year. The team began to show major promise on their recent road trip, where realistically they could have taken every match, but only walked away with one.

Three out of the five matches did go into overtime, with the Leafs playing three full periods in each. Really, none of this matters though. You don't make the playoffs for hard work and a lot of shots. You make the playoffs for wins, and we are lacking in that category.

Yet there is light at the end of the tunnel. With one of the best defenceman in the league playing at the top of his game, Tomas Kaberle has proved he is a leader and in all likelihood he will be wearing the C by season's end. His ability to quarterback the man advantage and control the play in the offensive zone has him with more points than any other blueliner in the league.

Lee Stempniak is finally showing why Cliff Fletcher traded Carlos Colaiacovo and Alexander Steen for him last year. Closing in on 10 points, Stempniak is carrying his weight, while seeing a lot of time on the blue line with Kaberle during the powerplay.

Pitching in their fare share as well is Jason Blake and Matt Stajan. A onetime 40 goal scorer, if Blake could score 20+ goals this season, Ron Wilson and company would be happy. And if Stajan equals last year's performance, you're laughing. (Stajan had five less points than Phil Kessel last year, imagine what they could do together on the first line.)

Niklas “Hands” Hagman has always been impressive. His six goals lead the team and if he can stay healthy this year, he will find the back of the net frequently, while making the honour role at the same time.

If the veterans continue to improve their play, not only will it help youngsters like Viktor Stalberg, Christian Hanson, Tyler Bozak and Jiri Tlustly, but it will win them games. The only position where this doesn't apply is goaltender. Not much more needs to be said than Vesa Toskala is out and Jonas Gustavsson is in. Toskala has not delivered one assuring game this year while ‘The Monster' has only earned more starts. The way this 6' 3” netminder gets himself in front of shots so he absorbs the puck in the chest in simply fascinating.

The defence is one of the best in the league and by Christmas they should be playing like one of the best in the league. Kaberle has clearly gotten off to a good start, but the top two other D-men, Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin have struggled out of the gate, with a combined -15. Garnett Exelby has done a good job filling into his physical role.

This defence will support their offence. An offence including the barely mentioned Kessel. You all know what the 21 year-old phenom is capable of doing. So will Burke giving away his next two first round picks pay off? Realistically, the Leafs can make the playoffs.

But should the Leafs have just waited for the lottery pick for themselves?

It is frustrating, that in the last six years the Leafs have only had three first round picks. And now with our first round pick traded away for the next couple of seasons we can't draft a future. Burke played his cards well in the college leagues to sign sought after youngsters but will it be enough to grow into success? And, what happens if Kessel gets 40 goals but we end up ninth or tenth in the East?

If we live in a world where Burke is wrong, I don't know if I want to be right.