Features / Toronto / Toronto Maple Leafs: The playoffs

The last time the Maple Leafs made the playoffs...

Facebook was just starting, George W. Bush had been re-elected and Stephen Harper had yet to move into the prime minister’s office.

It’s been a while since the Maple Leafs were in the playoffs. Since 2004, when the Leafs were knocked out of the running by the Philadelphia Flyers, Facebook has grown into one of the world’s largest companies, Bush was replaced by Barack Obama and Harper has won three elections.

“Take that and rewind it back” may be a fitting way to describe the disbelief felt by many fans about the team’s playoff absence since then.

It’s also in the lyrics of 2004’s most popular song, Usher’s Yeah!, which topped the Billboard chart for 12 weeks.

Usher is still around, but a few spots behind him at No. 6 was Hoobastank, with The Reason. Hooba-who?

A lot has changed for the Leafs and the NHL since the team last contended for the Stanley Cup.

Six Leafs players who dressed in 2004 remain in the league, only four of them with more than 10 games played this year. Former Flyer Jeremy Roenick buried the Leafs in 2004 with an overtime goal in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs, backstopped by goalie Ed Belfour, lost 3-2.

As for the NHL, after the 2005 lockout, games could no longer end in ties. In came the shootout — love it or hate it — to decide winners. The extra point has helped some teams claw into the playoffs, but it has hindered others, such as the Leafs, who have a 29-45 record in shootout games, 26th in the NHL.

In eight seasons, only once have the Leafs had a .500 record in games decided by shootouts.

In 2010, they were 4-4. In 2012, they were 4-5. In 2011, 5-6. Their worst record, 3-7, came in the year the shootout was introduced. Among active Leafs, Phil Kessel leads the way with 15 shootout goals all-time, but that’s in 52 attempts.

In the nine years since Pat Quinn coached the Leafs into the playoffs, they have had three coaches. Before Randy Carlyle, Ron Wilson (2008-12; 130-135-45) and Paul Maurice (2006-08; 76-66-22) failed to lead them to the post-season.

Carlyle (30-22-8) has brought them back to the playoffs in his first full season with the club.

A Stanley Cup triumph would erase a 46-year drought dating back to 1967.

Let’s not even start with what has changed since then.

WIN: Leafs playoff tickets

WHO: You.

WHO: You.

HOW: Wear your best ‘blue and white’ and show Metro’s photographer your passion for the Leafs.

WHEN: Monday, April 29, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Gate 1 at the Air Canada Centre.

WHY: The most passionate fan will be featured on the front page of Metro the day of the 1st playoff game and receives 2 playoff tickets. 4 runners-up receive gift packs from Real Sports Apparel that include Leaf jerseys.

WHAT: The first 500 fans to show us their love for the Leafs qualify. See full rules and regulations at clubmetro.com

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