Friday, November 16, 2007


Stuck in the midst of over 40 years of drought, the once mighty Maple Leafs have fallen on hard times of epic proportions. Not financially by any means as they were recently touted as the NHL’s most valuable franchise by Forbes, but in terms of on ice futility. 1967 was the last time that Leafs Nation tasted victory in the form of the Stanley Cup. Since then, not so much as getting close enough to even sniff it.

In 1969, 1972 and 1974 the Leafs were ousted by the Bruins in the playoffs. 1975, 1976 and 1977 they ran into trouble with the Flyers. 1978 and 1979 it was the Canadiens turn and in 1980 and 1981 it was the North Stars and Islanders turn to snuff the hopes of Leafs fans. 1983 the North Stars took them out again and 1986 St. Louis got in on the act. 1987 and 1988 the Red Wings did the honors and St. Louis again took them out in 1990. 1993 seemed to be the year that they would finally bring some glory back to Toronto, that was until they ran into Gretzky’s Kings and a barn-burner 7 game series that found the Leafs heading home early once again. 1994 they ran out of gas falling to Vancouver and 1995 Chicago sent them packing. 1996 the Blues shattered the dream once more marking the last time they would see playoff action in the Western Conference. Trying their luck again in the East, they made a run in 1999 where they ran into trouble with the Sabres. 2000 and 2001 New Jersey took over as Leaf killers and 2002 had the Hurricanes giving them the boot. 2003 and 2004 the Flyers took them out and they haven’t made the playoffs since.

This season’s version of the Leafs generated some buzz over the summer as additions to the lineup had Leafs Nation thinking playoffs again. Consistency has so far eluded this year’s version and a weak blueline now has fans second guessing earlier predictions. It is understandably difficult to play in Toronto under the constant microscope of the media and fans, but it is no different today as it has been all along in Toronto. Eleven Stanley Cup championships as the Maple Leafs gives the franchise its historical clout, $83 million in profit gives them the financial clout, but on the battlefield, between the whistles where the war is waged the Leafs have come up empty for the last 40 years. This is the reason for the constant scrutiny, the calls for front office change as well as on ice changes. Change can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered, but there are no guarantees that change will actually fix anything. Until the right formula is put together from top to bottom the drought will continue. Don’t forget that there are 83 million reasons not to change a thing and in today’s world the bottom line is the bottom line.

There is only one easy answer to what will fix Leafs Nation and that is winning the Cup. Trouble is, that is the hardest task to accomplish in all of sports and this year’s version isn’t off to a roaring start. Winning is the cure-all for what ails this once proud franchise and it remains the only way to bring glory back to the city. Winning is the only change that needs to be made and it starts with a face-off, a battle in the corner or in front of the net, one shift at a time and one game at a time. No matter what changes are made in the front office, it comes down to the guys who take the ice to make the necessary changes in order to win. Sure the front office can put together the best possible product, but even then winning isn’t in their hands it is solely up to the players to generate the wins. Winning is an attitude, a culture, a measure of pride and status and something that has been missing in Toronto since 1967.

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