“Our owners want to win as much as anyone,” Tom Anselmi has kept repeating, while many fans and media gave him the skeptic stink-eye the past decade.

But as of Saturday night, the president and COO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment finally had some evidence, as he celebrated the company’s crown jewel making it back to the NHL playoffs.

“I’ve had about 8,000 e-mails since Saturday’s game,” Anselmi said Monday. “I had to see that ‘X’ by our name in Sunday’s paper to make sure it was real. Then I saw the first Leaf car flags driving to the grocery store and I’m thinking ‘yessss!’ ”

The long-awaited signs of progress comes less than a year after the major corporate shake-up in the sports empire, when communications rivals Bell and Rogers put away their duelling antennae and bought controlling interest of MLSE from the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. Soon after came Anselmi’s promotion from executive vice-president to replace the retiring Richard Peddie.

“What’s happened this year is good for everyone, from owners to the players to those who follow them,” Anselmi said, repeating his mantra that a Stanley Cup and a profit margin are both worthy pursuits.

Knowing what could be reaped by a long playoff run and the good public relations to be generated if a near 50-year Cup drought ended on their watch, it’s been a stretch to think ownership consistently and deliberately engineered a regular-season tank.

But there was no sympathy for anyone on Bay St. when the Leafs somehow kept messing up the math trying for one of eight playoff spots with a better than 50% chance.

It was Anselmi who carried out orders from one or more of the new MLSE board to replace Brian Burke as Leafs general manager with Dave Nonis.