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The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Ottawa Senators again over the weekend.

In the two weeks between encounters, the Senators had become an even greater organizational basketcase. And that’s saying something.

Ottawa still figured out a way to get past Toronto. In this case, it was, “Shoot the puck at the goalie”.

Afterward, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock did another of his postgame group-therapy sessions.

“I think there’s a lot of positives we can take from the game,” Babcock said.

I suppose that’s true. I’m sure Napoleon took a few positives from touring his army through Russia in winter. How else would you figure out that wool is more of an autumnal material?

It’s getting to the point where you can watch a Babcock scrum with the sound off. No matter what sort of loss it is – a close one, an unlucky one, an ugly one, a one-man implosion – the party line doesn’t change. The Leafs’ positivity mantra has become hockey’s Hail Mary.

We’re 10 days from the start of the playoffs. This is not the time for preseason, “There’s a little victory in every defeat” talk. Since Babcock has been successfully using this speech to ward off evil for four years, he doesn’t seem inclined to change.

This is where the rebuild meets reality. This is a win-right-now team. It’s a team with one leg into its window of opportunity.

Babcock seems to be having trouble adjusting. A 6-8 March, with losses to some of the most wretched teams in the NHL, didn’t help.

But the more he keeps on keeping on with this “let’s just everybody stay calm” routine, the less calm everybody is going to be if Toronto gets bounced by the Boston Bruins in the first round.

It should be pointed out that every single human who watches hockey, has watched hockey or has talked to someone who watches hockey, fully expects that to happen. It’s more than a consensus. It’s unanimous. Yet the cool-cucumber talking points (married to some low-level terror behind the players’ eyes) continues unabated.

Maybe it’s time for a new approach. How does panic sound?

Panic gets a bad rap in life. People are always saying that’s the one thing you can’t do in an emergency.

But panic has some salutary effects. It tells people that you are at least smart enough to know what trouble looks like.

There are levels of panic, from high anxiety to mindless hysteria (which is only good if you think you might be running from something for quite a while and aren’t a regular jogger).

High anxiety would be a good state for the Leafs to start occupying.

Though no one wants to talk about it, they’re out on a ledge. It is time for their large, steady investments to start paying off. ans

Three weeks from now, we could be having a different conversation about the Leafs’ future than the one everyone’s got used to. As in, who’s in, who’s out and who’s getting tossed off the roof.

The result of this conversation is not going to be satisfying because there is no way to make substantive changes to this team. The core is locked in, and that includes the coach. So what you’re going to get is a lot of pointless bickering, corrosive talk about who hates whom, and the end of the beginning.

From that point on, the Leafs are in the middle of it. Historically, in a market this bonkers, the middle of it is not a place hockey players and managers thrive.

This is where a judicious amount of panic can help.

If someone from this team were to come out and say, “You know what, I’m worried. Like, really worried,” a lot of people would nod along with that. They’re worried, too.

If you have a blessed life and enough emotional bandwidth to be worried about hockey, this is a good place to do that.

That would at least alert people to the fact that the Leafs are not completely clued out of reality. That might buy some postcollapse (if that’s what this turns out to be) mulligans. I’m thinking here of Babcock – because if this goes wrong, he’s the one the torches-and-pitchforks crowd is coming for.

Telling people you’re not doing great when you’re obviously not doing great isn’t defeatist. It’s realism.

Realism is not a popular philosophy in sports, which has become infected with the language of visualization. Think it, do it. Never contemplate losing.

And yet they still lose. However, this doesn’t stop anyone from going back to their sports psychologist (that guy has to eat too).

If you say you’re not feeling so hot and then lose, enough people will congratulate you on being plain-spoken. If you say it and then win, people will call you a great motivator. It’s the only win-win you can get from losing.

But if you keep telling your paying customers things are fine, and then go out and get your doors blown off, there’s no good story to tell after that.

It’s too late for truth. That will only encourage the mob.

People will accuse you of not caring enough, or not reacting to signs of calamity, or not being able to adjust on the fly. See? What they wanted you to do was panic. They wanted to see a bit of (orderly) flailing about.

Babcock and the Leafs can’t start doing that in 10 days. It will only work right now.

“We felt we did a lot of good things as a team that weren’t rewarded,” Babcock said on Saturday. “Just keep doing good things, good things will happen.”

Sure. Maybe.

But it might be wise to mention that bad things happen, too. Just in case.

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