When you have an itch, you scratch it. When you have a problem, you solve it. When you feel like you're missing something, you try and fill the void.
Four months ago I made the decision to move across the country to embark on a journey that would scratch my itch and fill a void. My life for the last six years has been hockey, football, golf, baseball, tennis, basketball; every sport you could imagine I watched, listened, wrote, and learned. For the last six years of my life I worked so hard to get to a place I dreamed of and when I got there it was less than perfect. Nothing could have met the expectations I set for myself walking into the sports journalism industry, that was my first mistake.
Now that I sit writing in a newly constructed house in British Columbia, I feel calm. I feel as if the change is what I needed to curb the itch that wouldn't subside. I've let my responsibilities go and slowed down significantly. Juggling a personal and professional life in sports is a task I couldn't figure out. It was all work. You don't get days off, even when you're off the clock you have to be in the loop. I can go back to the life, but first, I need to experience things available to me now that have an expiry date.
Moving parts, all of them that got me here and are keeping me here are what need to keep evolving. When those things stop progressing and become rusted, change is staring you in the face. When a head coach loses his job it's because change took too long to come to fruition. When a general manager is let go, change was due years ago. When players are traded, it means change is on the way, the same goes for extensions.
When the Maple Leafs extended Randy Carlyle in the offseason, the rumours of beloved Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock coming to town were squashed. He doesn't have an extension with the Red Wings in place yet, but what a colossal waste of time and money it would be to sign Babcock to the contract he wants and fire Carlyle. The head coaching change should have been made after the Leafs' first playoff appearance in eight years when Carlyle insisted on putting Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren into the lineup.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a person who wasn't baffled at the David Clarkson signing. With a terrible year behind him, Clarkson is having a bounce-back season but in no way should be playing on the power play as a third or fourth-line player. Those are the kinds of decisions that should have numbered Carlyle's days. Change should have been on the horizon, instead an extension was offered.
When I realized I was exhausted all the time, I knew I had to change something to get rid of that lifestyle. I tied a knot at the end of my rope and held on for as long as I could. That's exactly what the Maple Leafs are doing with management and coaching. Brendan Shanahan came in and made a few changes but is waiting out the storm to see how long they have until the team implodes. This won't end well.
The Maple Leafs have a nice balance of players on their team, but none of them have been able to hit their stride simultaneously. They've had their ups and downs as any team does, but they are always held back by something, or someone. What the Maple Leafs need most is change. There are other coaches out there who could turn the ship around in the very least due to a change in management. Look at what happened to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. They underachieved and with a new first-year NHL coach they rallied to win the Stanley Cup. Dan Bylsma was just along for the ride.
If this team could benefit from anything it would be a change of scenery. Get a new coach behind the bench. Try a different power play, put together new lines, shake things up the easiest way possible. I needed a change and I fought it for six months. It's better to just give in.