Amazing what time in a mall waiting for my wife can do for deep thoughts. It occured to me that with about a month a change left in the Maple Leafs summer/off-season that Brian Burke has one major thing on his to do list, provide his team with 1 guy that fans will cheer for, the guy that will give the team an identity. Every great team has at least one, the Leaf didnt’ have that last year and I know this is going to be really unpopular, haven’t had one for a long time. Mats Sundin was not universally loved, and in fairness may that isn’t possible today. However, Brian Burke, if he wants to build this team in to something that fans of all ages can identify with then he needs someone. At least one guy.
As a parent, I can tell you that there wasn’t one guy on the Leafs last year that little TSM knew. In fact he never once asked for Leaf jersey with a name on it. In contrast, he wanted an Ovechkin, he wanted a Crosby. On the basketball side, only a crow bar could take away his TJ Ford Raptors jersey and he is dying for a Bosh jersey. Neither he nor I may be the Leafs target audience but I can’t imagine we are too far off. I am not going to suggest that Burke hasn’t gotten that guy, or that the guy may not emerge from his current roster. Schenn may become the guy, I think it’s too early for that though.
Someone said on the radio the other day that no matter how good things sound to Leaf fans now, if the team is in the shitter again next year people are going to be pissed. The inverse is that if the team is winning, all will be good. I think in either case the team needs the guy. I don’t think Burke has found him yet. That isn’t to say that every time someone scores, throws a big hit or a Maple Leaf is in a fight that the place isn’t going to go hog wild, it will. It doesn’t mean that you won’t see Leaf jerseys throughout the ACC, you will. However, I saw as many Sundin’s, Mccabe’s and Gilmour’s last season as any other player (in total) that was on the roster.
Burke has a couple of weeks to give this team an identity. If you were printing the media guide, who’s face is going on it? In my book Schenn isn’t that guy. Kaberle may not be here, he isn’t that guy. The kid they drafted this year likely won’t be here, he isn’t that guy. Toskala certainly isn’t that guy. None of the free agent acquisitions nor the the guys picked up via trade are that guy either. Burke knows it too. When he gets asked about a captain and he says it’s likely there won’t be one this season, it’s because he doesn’t have the guy. Think about this, if Kaberle goes, and Joesph is already gone and May doesn’t come back, who is the Leaf veteran guy? Jason Blake????!!! Poni?????
If Burke wants the fans to really get behind this team, he needs the face of the team. He needs to find the guy. He needs to find the guy we all root for, we all want the jersey and we all want to win here. So far, he hasn’t got em. Do you think he will?