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The Only City Where the Leafs Fall in the Spring

2007_04_11Leafsad.jpgIt was one of the wildest final weekends in NHL history. The Toronto Maple Leafs delivered a knockout blow to the Montreal Canadiens in one of the most electric matches in recent memory, only to have the New York Islanders break our hearts and take the final playoff spot in a shootout against the New Jersey Devils the following day.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight, but for the second consecutive year, the Leafs won’t be there, having missed out by just 1 point in the standings. The organization took out a full-page ad on the back page of the sports section in yesterday’s Toronto Sun. Here’s how it read:

Thank you for your unwavering support during the 2006-07 season.
We are disappointed that we didn’t achieve our primary goal of advancing to the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup. It has been an exciting season, with several teams in an unprecedented battle for the few final playoff spots. You were with us every step of the way.
Leafs fans are the greatest fans in hockey. We share your disappointment. However, we accomplished much along the way that puts us in a great position moving forward to pick up those few points in the standings needed to reach that next level.
This season provided exciting win streaks that resulted from outstanding team play in the face of injury and adversity; the further development of our young players; memorable tributes to Leafs legends Borje Salming, Red Kelly, and Hap Day; and the reunion of the 1967 Stanley Cup Champions.
Preparations for next season are already underway. We know we will be better next year as so many of our younger players will have gained from the experience. Every member of our staff will work diligently in the weeks and months ahead to continue to move the team forward toward the ultimate goal of bringing the Cup back to Toronto.

Now, if you made it through that without laughing, you’re probably Leaf General Manager John Ferguson Jr. “We do not take the support of our fans for granted,” said Ferguson at yesterday’s press conference. This from an organization that was ranked dead last in affordability in a recent ESPN fan satisfaction poll of all 122 North American sports franchises in the four major team sports.
Certainly no one would doubt the ability of the Maple Leafs to make money. But winning is something that for one reason or another seems to elude whomever seems to be running this team from year to year. With respect to Ferguson, it’s not due to casual indifference; it’s more along the lines of incompetence. For all his decent moves (hiring coach Paul Maurice, developing young players), Ferguson might not be able to escape the triple nooses of Bryan McCabe and Pavel Kubina for $10.75 million and the error-prone Andrew Raycroft in goal.
By contrast, the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors hired a rookie GM (Rob Babcock) that didn’t pan out, replaced him with the veteran Bryan Colangelo, and in an incredible turnaround, find themselves as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference only one year after his hiring (If only Mr. Colangelo knew a thing or two about hockey). So now the Leafs must make a decision—do they stick with a proven loser and hope he or the team can find their way next season, or do they find someone else to take the reins? Arguments can be had for both, but after 40 years in the desert, perhaps patience is no longer a virtue.

Comments

  • Mark Dowling

    No salary cap on GMs, head coaches or asst. coaches. Get the best, fire the rest. But how does that make the Teachers Pension money when they already have us suckered?

  • Scott

    JFJ has us right where he wants us … BELEAF in a team that is no better than an ESSO house league team on a good day. However, living in Toronto and being apart of ” the passion that unites us all” we have no choice. MLSE will not fire JFJ and simply looks like they do not care for one simple reason ACC will sell out every home game regardless of any Toronto “cant score” Maple ” no first line” Leafs.

  • Stephen A

    JFJ has to go. He’s proven his incompetence over the past 4 years. He was given cart blanche (minus a few long term contracts) to shape the Leafs into a playoff team. Since his tenure began 4 years ago, the leafs have had a steady decline in production, primarily due to his incompetence as a GM. JFJ is incapable of making an educated decision. The past two trade deadlines, JFJ couldn’t decide between tanking and selling off future free agents, or to make a push for a post-season birth and rent some hired guns. When JFJ does decide to take a stand, it’s resulted in the acqusition/signing of over priced, under productive players
    List of Gaffs:
    Raycroft – Horrible Goalie
    Kubina – Paid Too much
    McCabe – Paid Too Much
    Tie Domi – Signed for Too Much then retired luckily
    Jason Allison – Did nothing for the team
    Jeff O’Neil – Did nothing for the team
    Gary Roberts – Wasn’t resigned
    Aki Berg – Re-signed
    Tack this in addition to his inability to sign key players and you have a failed GM Let’s get someone with at least an ounce of hockey knowledge. At least with Quinn we’d make it in to the playoffs.

  • Danu Mandlsohn

    I don’t buy the argument that because the Leafs sell out every game that there is no impetus to win. The better the team does in the playoffs, the more money MLSE makes. And if they were ever to win or even reach the Stanley Cup final, the millions they would make on merchandise sales alone across the country would be off the charts. This organization has it’s problems, but we’re no Boston or Chicago.

  • elliot

    I don’t care about this team anymore.

  • Dave

    Boy, think about the tens of thousands of dollars MLSE is missing out from not being in the playoffs. They must be wiping their tears with $20.00 bills.

  • Danu Mandlsohn

    Tens of thousands? Guess higher, it’s millions: about 2-3 per home game.

  • Matthew

    Toronto by far is the worst sports city in Canada if not North America.
    Even after such a season and a laughable open letter like this talking about promises not kept and new promises to be broken next year, I will bet my very affordable Argo Season tickets that Leaf fans, like mindless drones, will be lined up around the block to renew their season’s for the 2007-8 campaign.
    I would love for us to win a Stanley Cup but Leaf fans…the faceless organization that own your team will never learn unless you stop going to games. There is no incentive for them to do anything differently let alone spend money for talented players if you keep cutting the cheques.
    And all the while, the sports fan in Toronto forgets that we have 3 other very succesful teams that could use the energy and passion that I know Leaf fans possess.
    Walk away people, just walk away.

  • doubled

    T F C . . . T F C . . . T F C . . . ! ! ! !