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Taoism, Rebuilding & Your Toronto Maple Leafs

Editor's Note: Here is anoter installment in our quest to find a third contributor to the site. Please e-mail us your frank feedback even if you hate something. It'll help us come to our decision and since you folks have to read what the newcomer writes it behooves you to help. However, you do not get to benefit from their coffee runs.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be
-Lao Tzu - author of the Tao Te Ching

Starting with Cliff Fletcher's trade-deadline assertion last season that the Leafs would be a drastically altered team in 08/09, the word "Rebuild" has been used by just about every beat grunt, columnist, on-air commentator and blogger who follows the Leafs. And while the word rebuild has been used everywhere, it has rarely been used to mean any one thing. I've seen as many opinions about how the Leafs should rebuild as there are pundits espousing those opinions.

Nearly every one of these articles, posts or segments I've read or watched ends with the caveat that "there are no guarantees" when it comes to a rebuild, even though they've just spent two minutes or 500 words explaining how their proposal would garner the Leafs a cup. It'd be nice if they added that caveat up front, but I suppose that isn't the best way to hook someone into sticking around.

Regardless, I find it interesting that most commentators (in all forums) need to qualify their articles in such a manner, and it got me thinking about how one goes about rebuilding the Leafs. At some point I had my own eureka moment, and resulted in this:

There is no correct way for the Leafs to rebuild, but there is a rebuild that is correct for the Leafs.

Yes, I'm aware of the inherent contradiction in that statement, but sometimes the truth lies within such contradictions, so stick with me.

I don't subscibe to the idea that the Leafs must do anything specific to rebuild their team, which is to say I don't subscribe to the notion that they need to follow any sort of set path. There is no single thing that will happen, no exact plan to be followed, that can turn this franchise into a champion. Not the hiring of Brian Burke, not drafting high or well, not the trading of or resigning of their veteran players. I hold no hope that any of the above could return the Leafs to glory. I do so because we've all seen youth movements stall, top prospects bust, trades that don't work and veterans who go soft. In short, I don't believe a rebuild is something that one's will can be imposed on; I believe it's a little more natural then that.

The Coles Notes version of Taoist philosophy posits that everything on earth has it's own tao - a way or path that could be considered natural or intrisic to that thing. The end goal of Taoism is to deduce one's tao and align themselves with it. The result is happiness, success or both, because one is acting in the way one was meant to. Likewise, being out of harmony or ignorant of one's tao means that one is spending energy to assert one's will in an unnatural manner. Expending this energy creates chaos, which then requires more energy to try and control.

Essentially, harmony with tao breeds success, disharmony with tao breeds chaos.

I would like to point out before I move on that I view tao as an abstract thing, not as a universal force. I find it more interesting as an idea used for introspection then for worship, so when I use the word tao I don't mean it in any sort of spiritual or mystical sense, I mean it more as a philosophical idea.

Getting back to the matter at hand, I don't subscribe to any of the espoused theories on rebuilding because I don't believe the those kind of specifics matter all that much. I could care less how a player is obtained or a team built; I only care whether it would increase harmony between the team and it's tao.

For arguments sake, let's say a part of the Leafs tao includes superhuman goaltending. The Leafs currently lack that, so they need to get some in order to increase harmony with their tao. Does it matter where they get that goaltender? Does it matter if he's drafted, signed, traded for or called up? To me, not really, as long as his acquisition increases harmony and breeds further success.

This is what I mean when I say there is no correct rebuild for the Leafs, but there is a rebuild that is correct. The former would force the rebuild down a specific and possibly unatural path, while the latter recognizes the team already has a path that simply needs to be understood.

And yes, of course I recognize the futility of asking an organization that took nearly five years to figure out JFJ couldn't run an NHL franchise to recognize the natural patterns of their team and respond accordingly, so this idea should work out just fine.