In the course of our season preview material, we have lovingly expressed our warm feelings towards the other Canadian franchises in terms that are judicious and measured. But if we’re being honest, there’s only one team that really makes us furiously upset, in the truest, deepest way.
So with the season soon to start, we thought we’d try some group therapy. Who here has been personally victimized by the Toronto Maple Leafs? [everyone raises two hands] Let’s talk about that.
Fulemin: I’m going to be honest: I am so goddamn tired of hearing how good this team is. I think they are good, or at least very talented, and I want them to be. But I am so sick of hearing what an unparalleled young core this is, and what unstoppable offence they have, and how every single prospect who won’t make the NHL for five years if ever is just fantastic at zone entries, and all the usual delusions of grandeur while this team farts around and never actually becomes a true contender. I’m tired of Sheldon Keefe being deemed a revolutionary thinker every time he makes a line change and I’m tired of hearing what a great progressive genius Kyle Dubas is. I’m tired of the endless dumb debates about Marner and Nylander and everything else and I’m tired of having to make obnoxious Anything Can Happen In The Playoffs! caveats about every time they lose. Win a fucking round. Thanks.
As for the city itself, it’s only fair I give them a paragraph since I dished out on Vancouver and Montreal (both places I actually like, by the way.) Toronto is a city that ought to be great and instead is a collection of condo developments bought by people who don’t live here to rent to people who can barely afford to. The city is defined by downtown assholes looking down on Scarborough, Etobicoke and every other neglected region that got so desperate for transit they elected the worst mayor in North America, who instead sabotaged existing plans without seriously replacing them and then smoked crack cocaine on a video that finally got us worldwide recognition, hoo-fuckin-ray. Oh, and our recovery process was to replace him with Ontario Mitt Romney. Toronto is an exploding, underserved city trying to claw some kind of respect and funding from an Upper Canada WASP elite that thinks civic investment is impolite and a provincial government that openly hates it for not voting Conservative. The docile crowds at Leaf games are no accident, because ordinary people who care and make noise and cheer for this fucking team are out in the square or in bars or living rooms, unable to afford to get into Scotiabank. Inside it’s mostly corporate boxes. And on the ice you get a group of very rich men who have done very little to deliver for an enormous group of people who are still passionately devoted to the franchise. In that sense, I guess, the Leafs are about as Toronto as they could possibly be.
Species: Everything in this city is a slog. This is allegedly a part of its charm. Work is a slog. Getting around town is a slog. Even shopping is a slog. Hell, finding stores that open late (pre-virus) is a slog. This is a city of 2.5 million and my local downtown Shopper’s Drug Mart still closes at 6 p.m. on weekends. Living here is a commitment to a lifetime chore with a promised reward at the end that can’t ever be obtained. You can try an unlimited variety of approaches, but this city is one giant Kobayashi Maru. No wonder the Leafs are so popular here. They are totally in on this scam. They even close early every yearn too. That’s why we hate them but still follow them; just like why I still live here, trying to find the one way to beat the system.
Arvind: The Leafs are the enemy team in every sports movie. We have so many in-built advantages. We have the highly drafted players who everyone believed in and expected to be great. The team spares no expense in training, scouting, or coaching. The media (and fanbase) constantly expects this team to be great, talking up every half decent player*. And then we always lose.
Though, thinking about it more, the one metric in which the Leafs are not like the enemy team in a sports movie is that the enemy team in a sports movie is usually demonstrated to be among the very best. We’re not anywhere near that. We haven’t won a damn playoff round, or even a pseudo-playoff round. As Conor McGregor would say, we’ll do fookin’ nuttin’. I’m not going to believe the team is any good until they actually do something besides spout platitudes and go home early.
*Offer does not apply to Nylander.
Brigstew: Everyone else will write very good reasons about why we hate the Leafs as a team. I want to take a different approach, and talk about why we hate the Leafs fanbase and media coverage. Fans of other Canadian teams like to complain that TSN stands for Toronto Sports Network, because we get so much coverage. Bruh, you think WE like that? Have you SEEN what their coverage of the Leafs usually involves? It’s 99% crap. I would love nothing more than to have them focus that attention on the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Canadiens, Senators, and Jets*. And Leafs fans, I’m not letting you off the hook either. I don’t necessarily think that we are, in general, any better or worse than other fanbases. Our problem is that there’s too damn many of us, so of course we see more idiots and assholes on Twitter, in comment sections, and calling into radio stations. It’s not that the Leafs are the only fanbase to have someone like Cat Shit Guy. It’s that we probably have 100 fans on the same level as Cat Shit Guy but you don’t even notice them because they’re all competing with each other for space in our brains that we’d much rather be taken up by useful information. We make so many memes about X prospect being the next Wayne Simmonds for a god damned reason. And I lied, I am going to rant about the Leafs. Win a fucking playoff round so we don’t have to hear shit it for another year. Just make a deep playoff round. Destroy this Canadian division and salt the earth were they used to be. I don’t want to hear complaints from fans and Brian Burke pounding the table about how you can’t win with the team built this way. Just win!
Hardev: Every season, especially recently has taxed me emotionally all the way down to the bone. Emotions get amplified honestly more than they should on a daily basis because of the twisted combination of enthusiastic fans and clickbaity media-types. Listen, I’d love to talk about how the team can improve either tactically or via personnel, but at some point we have to stop caring about Martin Marincin, or god forbid that first day in camp with Ben Harpur. Could no one have predicted he wouldn’t even last the season on the Marlies?
I also deeply hate the fact that this team has never been good defensively. Every season I’ve been given hope that hey maybe they can play defense, but every year it’s a flop. I won’t believe this season until I see it — I’m not sold on TJ Brodie yet, something about it all puts me on edge. Barrie, Hainsey, Phaneuf, White, McCabe, that old guy everyone talks about from 2003 and how we were robbed by the lockout. We weren’t winning the ‘05 Cup, stop it. It goes back a long ways.
I hate that the Leafs aren’t the Toronto Raptors either. We don’t have a Kyle Lowry (no, not even the guy you’re thinking about), and again, pretty sure TJ Brodie isn’t Kawhi Leonard, but we also haven’t shown the cohesion, the professionalism, and the respect for the job that made Toronto champions in basketball. I want that for the Leafs. The blueprint is right there, implementing it is a whole other mountain to climb, though.
Seldo: Aside from the NHL video games since 2012, nothing has ever disappointed as much as the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Katya: I procrastinated on this, and ended up last. Fulemin sounds like me except for the city part. Toronto smells funny, but is an okay place. Species is right about the Leafs trying to beat the system, which is that thing where you actually win some games to get points. Arvind sounds like me, except I don’t know who that McGregor person is. Did we draft him in 2016? Brigstew, well, I tend to let that stuff roll off my back about 1000% more than most sports fans. Hardev is right about that Lowrie thing. Seldo sounds like me when he gets on about video games. I liked Diablo II! Finding a cracked sash was fun. Games now are work — you have to grind! It’s literally called that. The game makes you make the game your job. Okay, I digress.
The team makes you make the team your job. That’s it! That’s why I hate the Leafs. It’s frickin’ hard work cheering for this bloody team. You need to spend as much time as a Fox News reporter making up fake excuses and disinformation about the Leafs to believe “it was just the goalies” or “when Morgan Rielly isn’t hurt...” or the big one: “after Keefe, though.” That takes a lot out of you, keeping your focus on the fantasy, to shut out the reality that the team played like ass last year whenever the hell the mood took them. And it took them hard in the playoffs. You remember the playoffs, right? The blink and you miss it five games that came after the last training camp full of “I’ve read those books Dubas gave me” inspirational speeches from Sheldon Keefe?
Speaking of Keefe, the effort required to stave off sneering disdain for this guy’s “all talk no damn wins” coaching style thus far has been epic. If you had to listen to him lament how bad the Marlies were defensively game after game after game, you really are fatigued by it all. Particularly when the line is once again how this year, unlike all the others since 1970, the Leafs are gonna be good in their own end. They can’t tell their own end from their elbow. Piss off with that bull.
Do it first, then you can talk about it. Quit making me do all the work.