Have you ever read a biography of a musician or actor where you learn about their upbringing, and they were raised in a theatre from the age of four surrounded by legends of the craft? Do you ever think, “man, if only I’d been brought up in that special environment, maybe I too could have been an influential performer who has sex with many attractive people”?
Well, I didn’t grow up in a travelling music troupe, but in my life I have been gifted a truly special education: I have watched the Toronto Maple Leafs eat shit in more ways than a non-hockey person could imagine. They have lost to champions and Zamboni drivers, real teams and the Ottawa Senators. They have shown me levels of sports depression hitherto unknown to science. Not to brag here, but I am a connoisseur of my hockey team sucking absolute butt at the most critical moments. And I feel that this has given me a bit of insight.
The truth is, in sports and in life, everybody wants something to complain about. Yes, other people may experience pain or suffering, but their feelings are just things they feel, whereas my feelings are things I feel and thus significantly more important. You see this most of all with Boston fans, who have won at least one championship in every Big Four sport in the last twenty years and still go on as if the world is conspiring against beer-bellied white guys who pretend to be Irish. But everyone does it. It’s a hard knock life, for all of us.
So, in light of our special experience as Leaf fans, let’s go around the league and look at who has truly suffered, and who is just the kid at summer camp who wants his stubbed tone to measure up to everyone else’s broken bone.
What do they complain about? I don’t know, their loss of Mighty from their team name?
What should they complain about? The Ducks are the most forgettable team in the NHL. They’re much more functional than the Coyotes, who are memorable primarily for being a total disaster, and Anaheim has actually won a Cup this century, thereby inflicting Brian Burke on all of us forever. But it’s just very hard to have a strong opinion about a team that specializes in finishing 24th and whose best player is a goalie trying to help them win games 0 to -1. It’s also a factor that they get those 10 PM start times and are thus ignored by the vile East Coast Media Conspiracy.
How much do they get to complain? 6/10. Being forgotten is hard, as any therapist to a middle child will tell you. But the Ducks did win that Cup because they had three Hall of Fame defencemen and the weather’s nicer there.
What do they complain about? Everyone wants to relocate their team.
What should they complain about? Oh boy!
The Coyotes have been the most disastrously-run organization in the NHL, and this is a league where Eugene Melnyk has been permitted to do business. They are in that special kind of corporate super debt where it’s unclear how the team itself has any real value left to sell to the next shady weirdos who might acquire it. Their most recent owners are petty tyrants who seem like they’d shake down the pizza guy over $3 for dipping sauce. The Yotes lost draft picks because their former GM did spooky evaluation nonsense and then skipped town. They traded for Taylor Hall for no reason and then offered him an extension that was just gift cards to Chipotle. Their only good players are their goalies who are hurt a combined 135 games per season. Their entire existence is a testament to the sunk cost fallacy: everyone involved has made so many mistakes getting to this point that to acknowledge them would be too psychologically devastating, so everyone digs in deeper. Does having a baby/trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson fix a broken relationship? No, it never does, but it might work for us!
How much do they get to complain? 10/10. Arizona Coyotes fans are the only real fans in the NHL. Sorry your second-rounder didn’t pan out, we play our games out back of a funeral parlour and the best forward in our franchise history is Shane fucking Doan. But I’m sure it’s tough you only got a sixth defenceman out of the 40th overall pick.
What do they complain about? It’s just so hard to have your franchise players age perfectly into their mid-30s and help you sustain a perennial contender. How do they endure?
What should they complain about? They haven’t won the Cup in a decade! Fetch me my violin, Reginald, I must play for them a requiem.
How much do they get to complain? 1/10. The refs are in their pocket too, by the way.
What do they complain about? They don’t really complain. They just sort of stare into the middle distance and mumble about death.
What should they complain about? The Sabres have had one of the most unrelentingly bleak decades in professional sports. Every time they get even the tiniest glimmer of hope Rasmus Ristolainen concedes the blue line and the hope is murdered by a barrage of Corsi against. Jack Eichel, the diamond they dug so deep to mine, is in the process of skipping town after six miserable seasons and an injury dispute. The Sabres are about to do a full rebuild again. They’ve been rebuilding since the fifth Fast and the Furious came out! Think how much Vin Diesel has taught us about family in that time.
How much do they get to complain? 9/10. The main reason I have them behind the Coyotes is that I’m more confident the Sabres will still be in Buffalo in ten years. Sabres fans have to decide for themselves whether that’s actually a positive.
What do they complain about? Justin Trudeau. You know oil and gas is actually the bedrock of this nation’s economy, so think twice before you argue we should “do something” to “save” “the world.”
What should they complain about? They kind of wasted Mark Giordano, who had one of the most impressive late-bloomer careers in recent memory.
How much do they get to complain? 4/10. Find them in your hidden replies on Twitter if you say anything about the environment.
What do they complain about? Being treated as newcomers ignorant of the game of hockey by a haughty Canadian media, despite the team having played in Carolina for decades now and won a Stanley Cup.
What should they complain about? Actually their complaint has merit, they’ve shown again and again that—hang on, their Twitter account is making a David Ayres joke for the 400th time. What was I saying? Yeah, they can shut up now.
How much do they get to complain? 3/10. This feels like a good time to be a Canes fan, they’re young and competitive and Don Cherry has been exiled to doing a weird blog.
I am exercising a Recent Events Make Joking Feel Out Of Place exemption on the Hawks. REMJFOOP. The acronym is gonna catch on. From a team success perspective, though, the Hawks have had about 60 years’ worth since 2010.
What do they complain about? Well, they haven’t made a really deep run yet despite having one of the best teams in hockey for the last couple of years.
What should they complain about? Nazem Kadri suspensions. Are they too long? Are they justified? Is it his fault? Hours of fun for the whole family.
How much do they get to complain? 2/10. If they bow out in the second round a few more times this will go up, but look at the Nathan MacKinnon deal and tell me how much pity you feel for them.
Columbus Blue Jackets
REMJFOOP. While we’re here I will observe that the Blue Jackets have had a really bleak history really since their inception, what with all their stars leaving town and the long string of playoff losses relieved only by upsets of blue and white squads. The Jackets deserve a break.
What do they complain about? The nerds keep making fun of the Esa Lindell contract. Also, Texas is stereotyped as a state entirely made up of country bumpkin good ol’ boys despite being a vast territory with a diverse population. Mostly the Esa Lindell thing though.
What should they complain about? Everyone has made jokes about Jamie Benn not eating pussy for years even though all the good ones were finished by like, 2019 latest. Every time he takes a penalty. “OH GUESS THERE ARE SOME BOXES HE’S NOT AFRAID OF HAR HAR.” We’re all agreed on the importance of sexual generosity, can we please move onto some new material? Like the fact that Tyler Seguin honest to God signed on for a cologne called “Sexual Noir Pour Homme.” I don’t know why we ever talk about anything else.
How much do they get to complain? 4/10. The Stars got a Cup at the turn of the century, by screwing over Buffalo. God, the Sabres have it rough.
Detroit Red Wings
What do they complain about? They never win the draft lottery! It’s so harsh and unfair. :(
What should they complain about? NOTHING. DO YOU THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN THEM WINNING CUP AFTER CUP AND BEING CALLED THE GOLD STANDARD FRANCHISE EVERY TIME THEY APPEARED? DO YOU THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN THE ANNOYING SMUG KID FROM THE PLAYGROUND WHO DECLARED HIMSELF A RED WINGS FAN DESPITE HIM HAVING BEEN BORN AND RAISED IN NORTH YORK? NO. I HAVE NOT. I WILL NEVER FORGET.
How much do they get to complain? Shut up.
What do they complain about? Being a permanent joke franchise for 15 years, despite winning lottery after lottery.
What should they complain about? The Edmonton media is genuinely, unbelievably bad. I know that a very smart and vocal contingent of Oilers fans have called them out for their water-carrying—the latest chapter is that Duncan Keith is going to teach Edmonton to win, I guess?—but the Oilers media seems to view it as their sacred mission to proselytize for whatever antiquated nonsense the front office has in mind. It was bad enough in Toronto when Steve Simmons et al. went to bat for Dave “Potato” Nonis, it was worse (and much funnier) when Dave Staples and Friends did it for Pete Chiarelli.
How much do they get to complain? 7/10. They’ve had their rough goes. On the other hand they’ve had two generational players and a dynasty within living memory. So a mixed bag there.
What do they complain about? People posting photos of empty seats and then pointedly talking about how this sort of thing never happened in Quebec City. It probably didn’t. I’m not looking it up.
What should they complain about? The Bobrovsky contract.
How much do they get to complain? 6/10. This would have been higher but they somehow were good this year despite running a forward group of Barkov + Huberdeau + ten fictional characters. Then they lost to Tampa in a competitive playoff series, which is honestly the best you can expect.
Los Angeles Kings
They’ve won two Cups in the past decade and have a top three prospect pool. Moving on.
What do they complain about? They’re routinely accused of being zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
What should they complain about? Sorry, dozed off for a second there. They actually have Kirill Kaprizov now, and he’s very excizzzzzzzzzzz.
How much do they get to complain? Zzzzzzzz.
What do they complain about? Canadiens fans think every penalty against their team is an injustice on par with what happened to John Wick’s dog. They also cause a comparable amount of property damage.
What should they complain about? The Anglos!
How much do they get to complain? 1/10. We can’t go encouraging the Habs fanbase to complain, it’s bad enough as it is. They’re 100% going to blame getting the Canadiens losing to a way better repeat championship team on the refs, by the way.
What do they complain about? They can’t get a first line centre no matter how many times they try. It’s ridiculous. You could give them Connor McDavid and within three months he would be a competent 58-point player and the Preds fans would insist that most of his value was defensive.
What should they complain about? When Shea Weber finally retires, the Predators are going to get hit with a salary cap penalty based on a contract that was legal at the time, for a defenceman who last played for them during the Obama administration. It’s one of the most insane rules the league has ever trotted out. The league lessened it in the most recent CBA, but it’s still ridiculous and I would be furious about it if I were them.
How much do they get to complain? 7/10. This is mostly because I think things might get pretty ugly in Nashville in the coming years. The window is about closed and now will come a time of sorrow.
New Jersey Devils
What do they complain about? People complain that the Devils quasi-dynasty was boring hockey, just because it was the dullest, most soul-crushingly tedious version of the sport ever to exist. It’s very unfair of people to describe it so accurately.
What should they complain about? I don’t think the state has ever really recovered from Jersey Shore.
How much do they get to complain? 2/10. They won a bunch of Cups and Scott Stevens was a war criminal. I’m not forgiving them just because they suck now.
New York Islanders
[interrupted by 5000 Isles fans screaming about pajamas]
New York Rangers
What do they complain about? They’re walkin’ heah!
What should they complain about? Owner James Dolan has mostly ignored the Rangers in recent years to focus on the New York Knicks, which has been good for the former and bad for the latter. The “letter” incident at the end of this season suggests he might be refocusing on his hockey team, and if so, look out.
How much do they get to complain? 5/10. Bad ownership is bad. They’d better hope Jimmy D goes back to focusing on his terrible blues band.
What do they complain about? Why is an Auston Matthews hat trick the top highlight on TSN when Nikita Zaitsev almost had an assist last night?
What should they complain about? There is absolutely no way I can do justice to Eugene Melnyk in a single paragraph. I would need a book. Melnyk is like if the logo on the Monopoly box was constantly yelling at you to give him five dollars and getting in fights with children and suing his own hat. He might genuinely be the worst owner in professional sports, and every time he seems to at least be getting out of the way while the franchise rebuilds, he has to stage a weird interview with the team’s 4C about how everyone needs to buy pizza when they come to the games or they won’t be able to afford the Brady Tkachuk extension. He is a delight. If he owned the Leafs I might actually give up on them.
How much do they get to complain? 8/10. They get to complain as much as they currently do, but about their owner instead of the eternal little brother complex they have with Toronto.
What do they complain about? The Flyers fanbase is a fascinating medley of two groups: a bunch of brawlers who would murder Mr. Rogers if he showed up in a Penguins jersey, and an enthusiastic group of online progressives who have crafted an intricate emotional soap opera around Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny. To answer the question, both groups think Alain Vigneault sucks at coaching.
What should they complain about? At some point, someone from the Flyers went to the temple of the goalie gods and broke all the mirrors in the building, and now they are cursed forever. They actually looked like they might have a good netminder for a minute there, and then Carter Hart shouted SURPRISE MOTHERFUCKERS and got scored on 125 times in a row.
How much do they get to complain? 6/10. The Flyers have made the Finals six times since 1976 and have lost every one of those times. Eventually this rage has to have an outlet, and here we are.
hahaha are you kidding
San Jose Sharks
What do they complain about? The team’s cap sheet looks like a Hieronymus Bosch painting. It’s just years and millions and old age and Erik Karlsson trapped in a lava pit.
What should they complain about? The San Jose Sharks were the best regular season team in the NHL from 2005-2018. The four teams behind them in that stat all won Cups. The Sharks never did and, from the look of the team, it’s going to be a long time before they ever do. I don’t know that any team’s playoff heartbreak—the Leafs or anyone else’s—compares to how good the Sharks were and the total lack of return. That’s miserable and there’s no getting around it.
How much do they get to complain? 9/10. They suffered, man.
For this perfect moment, you may live free of pain. Bask in this moment, for it shall not last.
St. Louis Blues
I feel like the Blues are pretty chill about everything right now. The Cup is still recent, they’re fine. It’s too bad Pietrangelo left, but eh. Rings fly forever.
Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s just so tough when you have to hide your Hart candidate on LTIR to manipulate the salary cap, comfortably make the playoffs anyway, and then bring him back to win a back-to-back championship. I’d hate that. Wouldn’t you hate it? Ugh.
Toronto Maple Leafs
What do they complain about? Lately it’s Mitch Marner, but everything. Leaf fans have been burned so badly so many times that they are—in a very funny and trivial way—completely neurotic.
Do you ever think about Wile E. Coyote’s mental state? He’s been trying to catch the Roadrunner for like 75 years and he has been utterly, ruthlessly dunked on every single time. He gets exploded and sprints off cliffs and pancakes himself against fake train tunnels. The only constant has been that every single endeavour he pursues ends in excruciating, embarrassing fashion. Imagine how he feels opening up each new contraption from Acme Enterprises. It’s got to be a mix of crushing anxiety and the most delusional hope in the universe. That is what Leaf fans are like.
What should they complain about? [gestures vaguely at everything]
How much do they get to complain? 9/10. The nine is because I want people to shut up about the refs. They’re not out to get us. We’re out to get us.
What do they complain about? THE LEAFS MADE US START OUR GAME AT 4:00 PM LOCAL TIME AND THE LEAFS TAKE UP ALL THE MEDIA AND THE LEAFS WON’T LET US WIN GAMES IN THE PACIFIC DIVISION AND THE LEAFS HURT OUR FEELINGS
What should they complain about? Jim Benning drafting a good core and running it directly into the ground seems relevant to me.
How much do they get to complain? 8/10. I will clown on Canucks fans all day for the wild BC inferiority complex, but the fact is they’ve had two of the most devastating Stanley Cup Finals losses of all time. Now, they shouldn’t have done riots about them, but they do get to complain about them a bit. Except when they say that everyone should have liked that 2011 team. You had Alex Burrows, guys. Come on.
Vegas Golden Knights
They have literally never had a year of their existence where they haven’t contended for a Cup.
For the longest time, the Caps threatened to be like the Sharks, but now they’re in the same boat as St. Louis: post-Cup chill. I think they’re on the way out now, but they got the best goal-scorer of all time and a championship. That’s pretty dope.
What do they complain about? Only like three people want to play in Winnipeg, and none of them are defencemen.
What should they complain about? Lack of airports.
How much do they get to complain? 5/10. Losing their team for fifteen years sucks. But they should be over it by now, so it’s just the fact that Winnipeg has the worst climate imaginable.
In the end, most sports fans are unhappy most of the time. That’s part of the deal. Should we do something else? Probably! End of column.