Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tee times are now available— Toronto edition

The signs that was going to be another frustrating year for Leaf fans had been spotted long before the Leafs eventually bowed out of the playoffs.

A team far too inconsistent on a game to game basis once again provided the fodder for comedians across the nation, who only had to throw out the catch line “how about them Leafs” to guarantee a night of free drinks and lengthy periods of laughter.

While the comedians picked up the cheap laughs, the folks in the not so cheap seats weren’t particularly amused, it has been yet another disappointing year for the centre of the hockey universe. The home side has become a team that seems to have drifted further and further from competence, let alone success.

From the soap opera aspects of the eventual firing of John Ferguson Jr., who started the year waiting for a “mentor” that never arrived, replaced by a familiar face ready to take on a caretaker role, though some of those aforementioned comedians might have said undertaker, we’re not sure…

What’s wrong with the Leafs, has become one of those Canadian catch phrases that seem now to have been passed on down through the generations, while some suggest it was first uttered when Sir John A MacDonald took in a hockey match on a frozen outdoor rink, the modern era began after that last famous Stanley Cup victory of 1967, forty one years later, there is still no real answer.

Sure in between they’ve tempted the fates with somewhat successful teams, but far more of them have been woeful exhibits of poor drafting, irrational trades and horrid managing.

The 2007-08 had elements of all, but mostly just featured a team that couldn’t perform to a level needed to play meaningful hockey past the first week of April.

While Mats Sundin said he wanted to remain a Maple Leaf, it will be with interest to watch if the Leafs are of the same opinion. Having chosen not to be part of the rent a player program popular with other NHL teams, Sundin instead went down with the ship. Whether he surfaces after the wreckage washes ashore is still to be determined.

Other leafs may find that the post office is a popular off season destination as change of address cards become as popular as hockey cards for the off season NHL class.

Darcy Tucker another one of those heart and soul guys we hear so much about, may be moving along with him could be Bryan McCabe. Pavel Kubina, Vesa Toskala or Tomas Kaberle could all be packaged off by the Leafs, providing they have some kind of leadership in place by the time the draft rolls around.

As it seems is always the case in Toronto, even while a lost season was winding down there seemed to be little news of a new regime ready to take control and set a new course for the stumbling team.

While other teams work on their playoff strategies and begin the two month march to Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Leafs need to work on a draft strategy and then a Free Agency period which could define their blue print for the coming season and beyond. Yet so far they have a caretaker GM and a search committee seeking out his replacement.

Of course the problem is that any hockey minds out there that might be of value to Toronto are probably still watching their teams playing the game. From the oft mention Brian Burke out in Anaheim, through to any number of Detroit Red Wing middle managers looking to move on, nobody is going to commit or possibly even be available until their team is eliminated.

With no management team in place in the upper reaches, the potential for the long running mess to continue is still there. Something that Toronto fans might even take for granted, just the price of admission to the always entertaining if slightly baffling circus that is the Toronto Maple Leafs…

That circus received it’s year end review over the last few days, with no stone unturned in a desire to discover yet again, “what’s wrong with the Leafs”.
Toronto Sun-- Mo stays, for now
Toronto Sun-- No Easy Answers
National Post-- Missing the Points
Globe and Mail-- Fletcher sets the agenda
Montreal Gazette-- Leafs masters of losing
Ottawa Sun-- A comedy of errors

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