The Plan Did Remain the Same and Came Back to Bite Them
Almost two years ago I wrote the following article.
It is disturbing to me today that I was right all along. By no means am i trying to boast being a hockey expert. On the contrary, I am simply stunned that if the common fan was able to see this demise back in early 2006, how come a bunch of wealthy, smart business men could not?
Basically the article summarized the fact the Maple Leaf organization always seems to choose the easy way out and stick with doing the things that have not at all helped them win all these years.
I mentioned the organization spending excessively, but not smartly, as a way to mask their inability to know how to win. By showing fans that they are willing to spend those great profits they make, to MLSE, its a clear and obvious sign the organization truly wants to win at all costs. The only thing that is obvious was that the money thrown at players like Pavel Kubina, Hal Gill, Jason Blake, Andrew Raycroft and others was a waste. No more evidence is needed to show how poorly the Maple Leafs spend their salary cap. If the goal of this organization was truly winning, then they would have gone after at all costs the best goalie available in the summer of 2006, Roberto Luongo, not the worst statistical goaltender in that past season. They would have gone after a stud like a Chris Pronger who got traded to Anaheim that summer, or signed Zdeno Chara if they truly were after the best, talented blueliner to augment their defence and strengthen their backend. And while many offensive talents were available this summer: Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Ryan Smyth, the team boasted about signing a one year wonder who was aging and past his prime in Jason Blake and ensured he’d stay a Leaf til age 40. Way back 2 years ago, the team had no clue on how to spend (remember the previous summer they gave Jason Allison an excessive bonus laden deal, they re-signed Ed Belfour pre-lockout), that fact cannot be any more clearer now.
I also mentioned their deep need to reward their own players handsomely without any of them proving they can help the team win. At the time of the article, the team had just rewarded defenceman Tomas Kaberle to a rich 5 year deal that contained a no trade clause. I like many suspected that a similar if not richer deal would come soon after to Kaberle’s defensive partner Bryan McCabe. While i indicated both were fine, talented players, the rewards they were getting didnt seem justified. The team at the time sat in 20th place in the standings and neither one of these key pieces was helping their team win. They were unproven as winners and they were unproven as players capable of being top end, star core players that deserved a star like no trade clause in their contract. Unfortunately this sentiment rings true again today. While talented and point producing, both Kaberle and McCabe have not proven to be winners. While some suggest the talent around them is the root cause of their inability to help the Leafs get to the playoffs, it is players like Kaberle and McCabe who are paid as well as they are to be the impact players who can carry teams to victory. This is unlikely to happen throughout the duration of their contracts.
The same things can be said about Darcy Tucker, Alex Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov and Vesa Toskala who have proven nothing but got big raises, long term contracts and in some cases no movement clauses. Why? That question boggled our minds then, and they boggle our minds now. Nothing changed in 2 years and unfortunately we are witnessing the sorry results.
But nothing says it better than the heart of the article itself. What truly is wrong with the Leafs and the zero urgency to do anything about it.
Here is an excerpt from the article. I couldnt have said it any better again.
“It is unfortunate that Leaf fans are so accepting of mediocrity. They talk with great pride of the team’s youth when there is not an impact future star among them. They with great love chant the name of their goalie who should have really retired years ago. They celebrate like no other with street parties and wild celebrations after a mere win in a playoff game or playoff series that is not even in the Cup final nor puts them in the Finals. They mourn losses or potential losses of former greats who cannot get the job done pleading for their return. They cheer their team no matter what. Alot of that has to do with the great pride and love for their team, the kind of passion for hockey and their heroes that almost all the fans in the US barely show for their teams. That is all well and good, but it simply plays into the hands of MLSE. I guess it is passion to a fault for us fans. I do love the fact that us Leaf fans are so passionate, it’s just that we never ever let them pay for not winning. Even losing 13 of their past 15 doesnt change a thing. Fans will still stand by and defend their Leafs and many will turn a blind eye to any criticism of the team, even if the criticism is warranted.
Why should a company change anything they are doing when they are making too much money to begin with and who couldnt drive fans away and turn them off if they wanted to. With a 20,000 person waiting list for season tickets, the toughest yet most expensive ticket in the NHL and a fan base that is from coast to coast, MLSE has absolutely zero purpose to change anything.
There is zero incentive to fire the team president who has made absolutely terrible decisions for the front office both both main sports franchises in MLSE. He makes the ownership group money and lots of it. He is essentially doing what he is paid to do. It doesnt matter if he meddles and gets his hands dirty with something he knows nothing about. the bottom line is the bottom line in MLSE and that plan will never change.
There is zero incentive to fire a coach and pay him a ton of money to sit when the fact is the team he coaches is floundering and has accomplished nothing in the 8 years under him. He is however more than good enough to coach a group of the country’s best players. Having him as Canada’s coach only supports MLSE’s argument that they have one of the best coaches in the world. Why mess with no success?
Why fire the GM who appears to have no clue of what he is doing. Afterall he does do what he is told without a fight. Unlike many of the other GMs around the league who actually double as team president, board member and league representative, John Ferguson is a mere puppet of the ownership. What other team rewards a player who is old and near retirement, with a long term deal at a high price because he is friends with the CEO? What other team has a CEO who knows nothing about hockey who tells his GM who to sign when the GM knows it serves no purpose but does so anyway? We will only find that in MLSE. The Tie Domi signing is what I am referring to. His close ties to Larry Tananbaum is why he remained a Leaf and a millionaire when no other team wanted him. It’s these types of hidden agendas that do the team in every time.
Why rid themselves of any if not all their players when the fans love them, worship them and support them to no end? I cannot underline the fact even more that players who help a team lose have little to no value meaning they simply cannot be moved. The perfect example is a guy like Chad Kilger. A castoff of 5 different teams, he appears to be a guy the team needs to keep and has such solid support from fans because he supposedly has played real well. Yes he leads the team in even strength goals and has done his best this year, but to blindly be so pedestrian and accept something so second-rate only proves my point that MLSE has it’s fan wrapped around their money grabbing fingers. To me that is like paying full price for a half eaten sandwich or putting an entertainment centre with the works:
surround sound, high def adapters, DVD, etc on a 10 inch black and white TV with turn dial and antenna. It serves no purpose.
The plan that they, specifically John Ferguson, wont tell us and that leaves us waiting in suspense to find out is pretty clear. It is to keep taking advantage of the situation and do nothing to change the ideals and philosophy that has continued to help them make money, keep their fans brainwashed and make sure the greater good of the people running MLSE is met regardless of the outcome on the ice.
Nothing irks me more than seeing such cluelessness. Sure, we fans see quite a bit of that here with trade rumors for significant talent with the likes of Berg, Belak and/or Antropov going the other way. It’s the fans capitulating to the ideals of MLSE. But like all teams, there is a fan base with knowledge of the game and a good understanding of it. I have no clue where the concept of not accepting rebuilding, the draft shmaft attitude and the sign a big name from the past to win now mentality at all costs comes from or how it supposedly comes from the fans. It just proves the lack of direction that the Leafs have.
The team needs to start over, it needs a fresh beginning and a different outlook on things. All teams have gone through that reality as they know bandaid solutions cant fly. Ottawa had to endure that near their beginning as they went with the bigger name in Alex Daigle to win fans and gave him the keys basically when more talented, needed players were available. Losing was Ok in Ottawa because they supposedly had their meal ticket in Daigle. Or in Montreal where it had to be French Canadian or nothing for them as they neglected Europe and Russia while other teams feasted on the World class talents that came from those areas. And how about the Rangers where bringing in big names was supposedly the only thing Ranger fans would accept. Supposedly that was the New York, Wall St, Steinbrenner kind of way. Now they just have one star, a bunch of his less talented friends and a host of young players (plus plenty more on the way) and they are in first.”
This article was indeed written 2 years ago, yet all these things mentioned are been said today as we speak. Really the only difference is that the fans now are no longer clinging to fantasy and have come to grips with reality. The team and the way things are done will be nothing more than a heaping pile of disaster without significant change. Whether the urgency and necessity exists from within remains to be seen. The lackthereof seen so far from MLSE speaks volumes of how poorly this organization is run, despite the excessive profits.
How a company can attain billion dollar status be so incompetent and so idiotic is really beyond anyone’s ability to answer.
Your average Joe was able to figure this all out in a simple article on a fan based website for Hockey Trade Rumors. The hope is now for MLSE and their braintrust to figure it out now before it is too late.
It is so obvious now status quo cannot be maintained. Something big, something drastic and something epic that completely changes the face and direction of this organization is the minimum that is required at this point. We need only to look at last August to see what status quo does for this organization. Its prevents them from bringing in one of the greatest hockey minds in the game’s history in Scotty Bowman, into the organization.
To keep things the way they are, to keep the same people in place, to have things work as they have always been done at MLSE, will do nothing more than keep things the way they are. It will do nothing but keep the Toronto Maple Leafs a bunch of sad sack losers who are a complete laughingstock in the hockey world and beyond.
Hopefully this group of faceless owners and heartless board members have a bit more pride and dignity than that and finally figure out what many of us have been saying for quite some time. Its time for a fresh new beginning and there is no time like the present to get this started.