Toronto Sports Media Circling Maple Leafs


Our pals in all the major dailies took the swords out to the Maple Leafs today in collective force. Here’s a recap of the day that was in the papers:

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That was the cover story of the Toronto Sun today. The accompanying story by Gary Loewen, actually the best story he has ever written, basically compared the current Maple Leafs to that of the Ballard era.

” During Ballard’s 19-year term as principal owner, the Leafs never won fewer than 20 games and missed the playoffs only five times from 1972 to 1990. The current Leafs, under the condo-flogging, basketball-dribbling, soccer-scuffling Maple Leaf Short of Entertainment Ltd., are on target to miss the playoffs for the fifth year in a row! ”

Hard to argue with the facts as Loewen lays them out.

” As the owner, Pal Hal was visible — he attended practices and watched games from his end-zone bunker at Maple Leaf Gardens. He was an easy target for vilification by fans. Nowadays, could anyone actually pick out an MLSEL governor from a line up of chablis-swilling navy suits in the platinum club at the Air Canada Centre? Club president Richard Peddie might be recognizable, but even he has disappeared into condo limbo since GM Brian Burke become the face of the Leafs on Nov. 29, 2008. ”

Well, I am not sure how valid that point is. A certain former assistant GM who’s fingers used to have problems with fax machines is pretty blunt in his opinion of the current group. Not only that all the media outlets have no problem identifying the figure heads either. As for the Peddie part, he isn’t an owner and the fact that we don’t hear from is a good thing…

” When Steve Stavro was bought out in February 2003, it laid the groundwork for the current board. Mistakes were made: Board members and players formed relationships; certain players got contracts they didn’t deserve; and the inexperienced John Ferguson Jr. was hired as GM.

The Leafs are still trying to dig their way out of the JFJ mess, which left some lingering, malodorous contracts.

The Leafs have the fourth least salary-cap space (about $600,000) in the NHL, so trying to pull off a trade can be a financial nightmare.

However, Burke’s arrival has accomplished two things: It has cut off interference from the board, and his personality has brought passion to the organization. ”

I think that’s a very fair assessment. The truth of the matter is, until this current group wins a cup- they can’t claim much more than Ballard did.

Still with the Sun, Joe Warmington had a very good article entitled ‘It’s time we held Wilson and Burke accountable’. A good story in that I think it fairly reflects the current state of the team and where the blame, if any, should lay:

” Since the Toronto Maple Leafs are the worst team in the National Hockey League, in a year when you gave up a potential first-round lottery pick and could miss out on a franchise player, it’s your turn to be called out for a change.

We are No. 30, after all.

We saw fans with bags over their heads in the more successful eras.

How long before it happens again? Anybody can coach or manage this team to last place — and for a lot less salary.

Despite all of the bombastic banter, and off-season acquisitions, the Leafs at the 20-game mark have won just three and lost 17. Spare us the argument that overtime or shootout losses are ties!

The “pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence” Burke promised seems to have instead become poor, pathetic, pitiful and pomposity.

Still Burke woos always wishful Leafs Nation with sweet-talking BS about “like a movie” one day the Leafs will “ride off with the girl on the horse followed by a parade.”

That seems to sum up the sentiments of every email I have received from similarly depressed Toronto Maple Leaf fans. It’s not about being impatient with the results per se, rather the pathetic display of hockey this team has played this year. The team appears to have gone backwards and forwards from the team we saw last year.

” After the last-second blowing of the Carolina Hurricanes game, Wilson said, in his usual caustic way: “We need more commitment from some people who are feeling sorry for themselves.”

Yet it was him who had a minus-five Nikolai Kulemin on the ice to help blow it.

Perhaps Wilson should be sent to the minors.

As for the reporters he seems to loathe, they are having a better season. Everytime he says something like “I am sure you guys would petition City Hall to have a street named after” a player who did “well,” I wonder if he would prefer to have the kind of interest they have in Phoenix? ”

I totally agree with the last part. These guys are working in the hockey mecca of the world. As much as they may loathe the MSM- at least they get coverage. At least people care.

” As Hans Christian Andersen wrote in 1837, perhaps the emperor has no clothes. People are starting to notice the clothes are not new — as illustrated by former Leaf Gary Roberts raising questions about the team’s potentially “ludicrous” training regimen and former NHL tough guy Jim Thomson telling TSN’s Michael Landsberg that “Ron Wilson is not a good coach” and “can’t motivate players.”

Time will tell on both because there are many years and millions of dollars owed to these “geniuses.”

I don’t have much faith in guys yapping from the sidelines. Everyone has an opinion and as long as you are on the sidelines you have an agenda. Is Wilson the next coming of Toe Blake? I have no clue, but the guy has won more than his fair share of games as a head coach. As the adage goes, he didn’t forget how to coach over night.

Over at the Toronto Star, Damien Cox chimed in on Wilson as well.

“Perception is everything in politics and sports, and in this case, there is a growing perception that Wilson would be safe even if the Leafs had zero victories because he has already by tabbed by Burke to coach the American Olympic team in February.

Leaf fans will take a lot. They’ve proven that over four decades. But keeping a coach in place so he can coach a U.S. team in the Olympics? That won’t fly, even if it’s not the reason Burke has indicated Wilson is safe.

So if the water keeps rising, and it’s rising very quickly around the Leaf enterprise right now, Burke may ultimately get pushed into doing something he is dead set against.”

I don’t believe Burke will get ‘pushed’ to do anything by anyone but the facts themselves. He doesn’t appear to be in the position to fire Wilson simply because ownership is unhappy. This is his bus and it’s way too early for him to do that. If Wilson’s team stays on this course 4 wins in 21 attempts, to 8 in 42, then Burke may be pushed to fire Wilson.

“The guess here is that Wilson has 10 more games to show some noticeably positive results.

The team is healthy, particularly the key players, Wilson was lucky enough to have a pure scorer in Phil Kessel added in early November and he’s working with a team that isn’t overly inexperienced.

The club, however, was dead last in defence and penalty killing last year. It still is. Youngsters like Luke Schenn, Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell are going backwards or sideways.

Whatever Wilson and his assistants are preaching either isn’t getting across to the players, or it’s a game plan they can’t execute”

I agree with that notion. To hear Burke suggest otherwise was laughable the other day. If this continues it just can’t be ALL the players, you have to look at the common denominator.

“Three wins in 20 games is pathetic. If, after 30 games, we’re still looking at six wins or less, the pressure on Burke to make a coaching change will be excruciating.

Maybe that won’t affect him. People should remember that his first two years in Vancouver were just as ugly as they have been so far in Toronto, maybe uglier.

But Burke wants to win, and so far, there is little or no evidence that Wilson is going to be able to fashion even a .500 club out of the current lineup, which may simply mean he’s no Criss Angel.”

I don’t disagree with any of that. Things just can’t keep on like this much longer. Tonight’s shootout win is a start. Let’s see it again and again and again…

“Burke, in London, Ont., watching top draft pick Nazem Kadri on Friday night, is working on at least two trades. He will undoubtedly attempt to make roster moves first, preferring to make a coaching change the last resort.”

Burke has to do something to get this team going. It doesn’t take rocket science to arrive at the conclusion that this squad doesn’t have the horses…

“Interestingly, Randy Carlyle has the Anaheim Ducks in last place in the West, and if he were to get canned there, Burke would have a bona fide option. Carlyle has worked for Burke with the Canucks and Ducks.

At the moment, there’s Wayne Gretzky, who was severely disappointing after failing to strike a free agent deal as a player with the Leafs in 1996 and probably isn’t done with coaching yet. It’s suggested Gretzky has lost 20 pounds and is feeling great these days, but also noted that a job that takes him far away from his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., might not be at the top of his wish list.

Interestingly, Gretzky shares Burke’s philosophy on the need for toughness in the sport and enforcers on the ice. He learned a great deal from his experiences in Phoenix and, like the late Ron Lancaster of football fame, could be that rare superstar who struggles in his first coaching assignment then excels in his second attempt.

Certainly, you couldn’t get a bigger name.

Craig MacTavish, Peter Laviolette and Mike Keenan are also out there, and Ted Nolan’s name always comes up.

Burke won’t like it that candidates are even being discussed. But that’s the dark cloud that three wins in 20 games brings.”

I don’t think anyone likes that the team is as shitty as they’ve been. At least not anyone with any love of the Leafs anyways. The fact that the papers are circling before December 1 is astounding.

Over at the Globe, David Shoalts checks in and to be honest, I think his latest work is mostly out to lunch.

“If most fans had their way, Brian Burke would be busy this weekend firing Ron Wilson, trading Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Luke Schenn and just about any other prospect the Toronto Maple Leafs have, and presto, they would no longer be the worst team in the NHL.:

While I have heard people suggest Wilson’s firing, no one that I know has suggested trading ANY of the names Shoalts listed. At least no fans with brains.

“The populace that bragged during the summer of 2008 that it was willing to wait while the Leafs underwent a massive rebuilding operation that promised to be a minimum of two years is, 14 months later, somehow under the impression that today’s 3-11-6 team is the equivalent of seeing the 1977 Montreal Canadiens going off the rails.”

That’s just utter bullshit. The fan base has the stomach to go the right route. Burke elected not to go that way. He didn’t break the whole thing down and go with kids, he went a non -traditional route of being half pregnant. By signing the guys he signed and saying the things he said, he send a message that things weren’t going to be as bad as they are. That people are pissed isn’t a sign of impatience. It’s one of disbelief and reality of having seen this before.

“In the meantime, fans should remember this is a rebuilding team. Unlike previous years, there are some prospects on the farm, though. Consider that the best centres in the organization (Bozak and Kadri) are not even with the Leafs and practise some patience.

As for the current edition of the team, there is not much hope for dramatic improvement. In the wake of Thursday’s ghastly blown lead and loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Stempniak admitted the Leafs are a little short on fortitude.

“We don’t respond to adversity very well, I guess,” he said. “We play really well and then let one little mistake get to us and compound it.

“We need to do a better a job of being mentally tough and being a team that knows it takes 60 minutes to win a game.”

Stempniak and a few others may have to learn this with the marlies”

Um David, your MSM brothers and sisters should remember that too, don’t ya think???????

So, one win versus Washington and now we see what happens. Burke can’t be swayed that things have turned by this one win…

Loewen is here
Warmington is here
Cox is here
Shoalts is here

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Gerard
Gerard
November 21, 2009 11:05 pm

Shoalts has been reading the comment boards on the fan blogs. That part of his article was a basic generalization of the comments on nearly every article over on MLHS.

Benjamin
Benjamin
November 22, 2009 12:18 am

Hey TSM, this story came up on google news! Congrats!

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[…] Toronto Sports Media looks at what reporters have been writing about the Maple Leafs… […]

Kohma
November 22, 2009 12:27 pm

Fantastic Post.

“Interestingly, Gretzky shares Burke’s philosophy on the need for toughness in the sport and enforcers on the ice.” Yeah, they kept him while he played!

“Burke elected not to go that way. He didn’t break the whole thing down and go with kids, he went a non -traditional route of being half pregnant.” Nice.

Kohma
November 22, 2009 12:28 pm

kept him *alive* while he played!

Steve
November 22, 2009 1:37 pm

While I understand the nature of most of the articles written by the MSM over the past few days (prior to the Washington win – which wasn’t as great as the media is pretending) – I have a bit of a problem with people toasting the Toronto Sun writings as great reporting.

To wit:

“” After the last-second blowing of the Carolina Hurricanes game, Wilson said, in his usual caustic way: “We need more commitment from some people who are feeling sorry for themselves.”

Yet it was him who had a minus-five Nikolai Kulemin on the ice to help blow it.

Perhaps Wilson should be sent to the minors.”

Nikolai Kulemin wasn’t a -5 on the night in question. He was even, INCLUDING the goal scored to tie the game. He had 2 assists, and was one of the best players for the leafs during the game.

He’s a -5 on the season, but then Rickard Wallin is -5, Lee Stempniak is -6, and Matt Stajan is -7… somehow I doubt that would be a trio the writer would object to as being on the ice in the final minute for this Leafs group.

Mikhail Grabovski is -3, Jason Blake is -2, and Phil Kessel is +2, so is the argument that they would have been better choices to be on the ice with the game on the line? I don’t really think so.

Arguing that Ron Wilson is a bad coach because the team blows a lead they capture with 36 seconds remaining in the game, is a bit beyond the pale frankly.

Steve
November 22, 2009 1:46 pm

Cox also shouldn’t be arguing that Burke’s first 2 years in Vancouer were worse. He was hired in 1998.

The Canucks ’98-’99 season saw them finish 23-47-12 for 58 points. In ’99-’00 they ended up 30-29-15-8 for 83 points.

Unless Cox is including the ’97-’98 season I’m not sure how the comment makes any sense.

BlueBuds
BlueBuds
November 22, 2009 2:01 pm

“the fan base has the stomach to go the right route. Burke elected not to go that way. He didn’t break the whole thing down and go with kids”

I’m sorry but isn’t this comment 100% contradiction? I understand the concept of going with youth but shouldn’t they do that when the youth is ready for the show? What kind of management would throw kids who are unproven to play against talent level they never played with? I don’t know about you but having the stomach means dealing with the time it takes for kids to properly develop in the AHL before jumping to the NHL, not lets watch these kids get slaughtered every night but they’ll learn to adapt mentality. I’m sorry but exposing kids to the crap that is this team and losing is not what I would want to be exposed to. These kids need time in the AHL to develop and not rushed into the big show to only ultimately fail. That is what stomaching really means and clearly there are many fans and MSM reporters fail to recognize.

Eggbert
Eggbert
November 22, 2009 5:40 pm

All bullshit aside, this team has played well enough to win probably 8 of their last 6.We need finishers!

Jackmac
Jackmac
November 23, 2009 10:01 pm

I don’t buy the “playoff appearances” argument presented early in the article. In the 21 team era (1979-91) it was difficult to MISS the playoffs – witness some of the point totals of Leafs teams that made the postseason in that era. In the 18/17 team era (1974-79), the top 3 teams in each division made the playoffs. The Leafs had some decent squads in that period, but they also benefited from the presence of the dreadful Seals/Barons franchise in their 4 team division. Bottom line, 70 points (5 games under .500) pretty much guaranteed a playoff spot in the past, in the 3-point game era today, its 92-93 (i.e.: minimum 5 games over .500)

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