Maple Leafs Lipstick On A Pig


Happy New Year to one and all!!

What a fascinating 12 months it’s been in Toronto from a sports perspective. The ups and downs of the Blue Jays and the Maple Leafs vs. the waited (and yet to happen ) collapse of the Raptors. It seems that the ebbs and flows of a season are much more alarming from a fan perspective in the GTA then in other sports markets I’ve lived in.

A quick look at the Leafs season is the classic example. At multiple times the team has been on the ropes with the torches lit and the hounds ready to pounce. The team has found a way to climb back to respectability and weathered the storm.

So, as I watch the most recent tailspin by the Buds, I am hardly alarmed as it appears that I’ve seen this movie before.

Kudos to James Mirtle for his piece tonight which I think calls the Leafs Spade a spade:

Beyond the coach and what’s obviously a possession-bereft style of play, what ails the Leafs remains the same as the day Mats Sundin left in 2008.

They don’t have a No. 1 centre.

They also lack a No. 1 defenceman.

And repeatedly asking Kessel and Phaneuf to be more than they are – to be something, in fact, they never were – without those pieces is as foolish as anything that’s gone on around the organization in the past decade.

It’s so true.

At no point have the Leafs really addressed their needs.

The issue is not only the coach. The issue is the Leafs built their team around Kessel, Phaneuf and not much else because they were the impact players that former GM Brian Burke was able to get without going through the draft or free agency, routes he deemed too slow or too costly.

They were available because they had flaws; unsurprisingly, they still have them.

And you can blame those who have ignored that for too long for part of the Leafs’ downfall.

It was with interest that I saw some MSMers predicting that a Leaf coaching change is on the horizon. While it would be a good start, the problems with the Leafs are far greater than just the coach don’t you think??????

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Stuart Scott of ESPN. I watched him a ton while living in the USA and I was a fan. I am curious, given that you will watch TSN or Sportsnet for your hockey coverage, if ESPN Sportscenter were also available here on an every day basis you watch it along with or instead of the other networks?????

Maybe because it’s in my backyard, but is anyone else less interested in the World Juniors this year????? I really haven’t been overly interested in tuning in.

Happy Monday!


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January 4, 2015 9:23 pm

As a yank, i have not watched sportscenter in years. They dont serve my interests and i dont care anymore for schtick.

Steve Jones
Steve Jones
January 4, 2015 9:42 pm

Well I don’t think Mirtle broke any new ground with his story. It’s been painfully obvious for quite some time that the Leafs had a flawed core with little on the farm and a too close to the cap problem. Signing Phaneuf was a huge mistake. They are now saddled with a large ticket contract for 7 long years. Without him they may have been marginally worse, but given this group struggles to just make the playoffs who cares.

Given the situation they are in it could be years before they can re-tool. With the cap situation as it is how can they sign Kadri, Fransen, Bernier, Santorelli et al? If they indeed want to sign all of them. They may have been able to clear some cap by dealing Lupul but his ticket is pretty big for a guy who plays 50 games a year. So all in all I think for Leafs fans it’s a smokem’ if you gotem’ situation. All the more galling when you look at how quickly teams like the Panthers and Islander progressed.

January 5, 2015 8:19 am

Toronto is a funny market with it’s sports media coverage. To borrow a phrase, certainly the Leafs are the straw that stirs the proverbial drink and it has always been evident in how the team has been covered. Play a few good games and the players are fantastic. Play a few very bad games and it’s “here we go again”.

My question, given how this team has REALLY looked for the past year or so, is why would the media say:

1) “If I were management, I would sign Kessell long-term immediately.” B. Hayes after Leaf playoff loss to Bruins, 2012
2) “Leaf management need to sign Phaneuf to a new contract as it only makes sense.” E. Freidman (and others) prior to Phaneuf’s extension on Jan 1, 2014.

Blue and White Disease is not only inflicting the players, it’s been killing brain cells of the decision makers for years and the local media is as much to blame as anyone.

Rob In Aurora
Rob In Aurora
January 5, 2015 2:57 pm

Mirtle keeps writing the same thing over and over (and over)…and everyone knows/knew Kessel and Phaneuf are/were not players to build around. Phaneuf’s signing was a huge mistake, especially doing it before the end of the season. Both those contracts are trade-able despite what fans assume…Teams need D men and scoring and are willing to pay to get it. Trading one or (hopefully both IMO) before July 1 would solve all their cap issues. Kadri, Benier, Santorelli and Fransen are more valuable to this team long term than either Kssel or Pahneuf. I can’t help but think that one or both of these guys are bad in the room. (Just a feeling).

I think you’re in the minority when it comes to the Junior Worlds. The ACC is packed and fans are going nuts for the hockey, which has been better than I can remember. The team is playing well and all I hear is people talking about games they have seen on TV or gone to in person. McDavid and Eichel alone are reason to take more interest (Something tells me this lack of interest is because you’re not a TSN fan – or not much of a hockey fan?).

I would never watch ESPN over TSN as it is American-centric, they invariably ignore hockey completely and the Raptors & Jays as much as possible too…(I don’t watch Sportsnet as it is a joke).

Speaking of getting opinions: Is anyone else completely ignoring HNIC now? – I stopped watching pregames and intermissions because the “train wreck effect” wore off and it’s just bad TV now…George will never work as host. But the supporting cast there is so weak, its cringe-worthy. I watch Leaf games only – and I usually stream the radio coverage for my play by play as the SN broadcast teams are so awful to listen to. Bowen and Ralph with all their shortcomings are A+ “Excellent” in comparison. I am hoping Sportsnet is eventually forced to sell off more content to TSN.

Rob In Aurora
Rob In Aurora
January 5, 2015 3:05 pm

One of the best hockey sites ( has ceased operations and is down indefinitely (according to the site and many Twitter postings) due to the health of the site’s founder and creator Matthew Wuest.

The sign-off on the site is rather cryptic, but Matthew is very much entitled to his privacy. Nonetheless, if he reads this, I would like to thank him for providing what was a great and very interesting and useful web site. I hope this isn’t a permanent ending, just a temporary interruption of service and all the very best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to Matthew!

Too Much
Too Much
January 5, 2015 7:04 pm

World Junior ratings are killing this year, so I suggest TSM is not in the majority regarding interest.
BIG props to Glenn Healy – love him or not – who on the Fan tonight said that he thinks TSN does a fantastic job with the WJC. (Blair had tried to bait him with an “is the WJC overdone?” question. But at the same time at least Sportsnet was finally talking about the WJC.) Nice to hear someone say something respectful of the competition.

January 6, 2015 8:02 am

If the 1st line and a half would backcheck with real, consistent effort, Gardner and Rielly would shorten the gap and force opponents to the outside and Phaneuf would actually hit guys like his first 2 years in Cgy this team would be a lot better.

But they won’t. Now they know they can get away with anything, and with no repercussions.

January 7, 2015 3:09 pm

TSM, you missed some excellent hockey if you did not tune in to the World Junior Hockey Championships. Like the Olympics, this is a showcase for the best players in the world, and if you get a coach that can bring the talent together in a coherent manner, the level of play and competition can’t be beat. I saw games both live and on TV, and thoroughly enjoyed them all, regardless of the nations involved. To bring the media context back into it, TSN has done for this tournament what CTV did for figure skating in the 60’s and 70’s, which was to bring excellence in a previously ignored sport (or level of sport) to national attention. I don’t care if any other station pays attention to it, because TSN does just the right amount of coverage. I think someone mentioned (in the Sportscaster of the Year blog comments) that James Duthie is underrated, and I agree. He is a consumate professional, and his paring with Bob McKenzie is perfect.

If ESPN were here, I would watch it “in addition” to TSN, not in place of it, and only for American perspective on American sports. TSN has surpassed ESPN in its level of professionalism of its sportscasters overall. I don’t think that SportsNet will ever catch up based on their corporate culture.

Too Much, thanks for sharing that about Healy and Blair. That is a silver lining for Healey, and for an anti-hockey SportsNet broadcaster like Blair to ask such a question is like a Nazi asking if coverage of the Holocaust is overdone.

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