Monday, October 26, 2009

Today's Maple Leaf Rant

I'm tired of the characterization that the Toronto Maple Leaf owners are not interested in winning, that their loyalty is with the bottom line, that they don't care about the fans, yada, yada yada. This is well chronicled in the recent book Leafs Abomination: The Dismayed Fans' Handbook to Why the Leafs Stink and How they Can Rise Again, by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange.

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Fund may be inept and lack any visibility but I don't believe they are not committed to winning. They are not the corporate version of Harold Ballard. Since the took control of the franchise the Fund has struggled to find the right person to run the franchise. Prior to the lockout they handed the reigns over Ken Dryden, Pat Quinn and John Ferguson Jr. The Leafs were one of the biggest spenders in the NHL leading up to the lockout which allowed them to maintain competitive and gloss over weak management. In the year leading up to the lockout the Leaf payroll was $70 US million ($100 CDN million) which hardly sounds like an organization not committed to winning.

Leaving the teams in the hands of a pretty green GM following the lockout was a huge mistake. But again the owners once again showed that they wanted to turn the team around by openly searching for the best manager that was available in the marketplace. Certainly there are better managers than Brian Burke but it stands to show whether any of them were available or interested in the Leafs' job. MLSE made a huge monetary committed to Burke and provided significant funding to rebuild the scouting and management team.

Fan impatience is understandable at this point in time but not really helpful. The team has decided not to rebuild through the draft the way that the Penguins, Capitals and Blackhawks have been built. Let's face it, the Leafs haven't made the playoffs in 4 years and a slow rebuild could easily stretch their non-playoff status to 8 years. However, this mess cannot be turned around as quickly as fans would like. So relax and wait to see what Burke can do. It's way too early to write him off.

The more frustrated fans always call for a boycott of the Leafs as a way to punish management for not delivering a winner. They are convinced with empty seats in the ACC, the owners will finally become serious about building a winner. This just nonsense. The GTA has over 5 million people with many of them avid hockey fans. The largest hockey market in the world isn't just going walk away from the game.

Okay, I'm done my rant.