No one ever plays just one game of tic-tac-toe. Never. Because by the time both participants realize who’s going to win, the loser is already drawing up the next game board, while the victor is making things official on the previous one.
The loser of tic-tac-toe immediately wants another chance. They know they can win. They just need an opportunity. A clean slate.
And that is what I like about sports. The idea that there is always next year. That, no matter how bad things are this year, next year can be better.
As for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I’ve been in “there’s always next year” mode for the last month.
Last March, I wrote a blog post about how watching the Leafs wasn’t fun anymore. Then the season ended, and a new one began. Watching the Leafs was fun again. They were winning games and all was right in the world.
Then the team went downhill faster than a child on a toboggan outside of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. It’s a steep hill, trust me.
They fired the coach. They became the laughing stock of the NHL. They lost ten games in a row. A hat trick of disaster.
But hey, at least they are outshooting their opponents now, right? They aren’t winning games, or scoring goals, but that’s not important! WE ARE WINNING THE SHOT COUNT.
People have been begging the Leafs to adopt a more defensive style of play. Well, they did. And now they can’t score.
Careful what you wish for, kids.
Like a clump of hair in your soup at a restaurant, the Leafs have become unappetizing. I haven’t watched an entire game since December. I just can’t do it. It hurts too much.
I can’t bring myself to watch anymore. (I have tickets for a game in March, which should be fun.)
This blog post will have no suggestions or recommendations on what I think the team needs to do in order to become a serious contender. I’m tired of trying to think of solutions. I’ll let other people do that. What does it matter what I think anyways?
That being said, I think everyone on the roster needs to go. I wouldn’t keep anyone, except Morgan Rielly.
Trade everyone. Eat their contracts if you have to. Just get rid of everyone. No one on the team is likeable. That’s a problem. I would be able to deal with this team if they had “lovable loser” status. But they don’t.
Everyone on the team is scared to put sentences together in front of the media. As they should be. The Toronto media is like a cage of wild animals that haven’t been fed in two weeks.
The media do nothing but add to the overall problem, but they don’t care. They’ll raise an eyebrow at anyone and anything if it means a story comes out of it.
Let’s ask Phil Kessel questions until he gets mad at us and storms off. That will be a top story for two days. Mission accomplished. It was.
The players can’t be themselves because everything they say is examined under a microscope they thought they left behind in the Grade 9 science lab. Thus, they become awkward introverts, who only receive compliments from the female fan base when they post pictures of themselves looking dapper on social media.
Oh what a world we live in. Mats Sundin would never seek such approval.
Winning may solve everything, momentarily. However, it’s sustained success that really solves everything. The Leafs have had good stretches this season, but they were just that, stretches.
There are so many players on this team with long-term contracts. Good for them. They got job security. That’s all anyone everyone ever wants in life.
But this is professional sports. You can’t just sign everyone to a long-term contract, especially players that haven’t helped you win anything in their time here. Why do we have confidence in players that help us miss the playoffs every year? I don’t get it.
I just want a hometown team that works hard, is self-depricating, and wins more games than they lose. And if they are a losing team, then at least make the game entertaining. At least try. At least look like you care. You are playing professional hockey. This won’t last forever. Act like you’re happy to be there, even if you hate the position your team is in.
Why is this so hard?
Put on a happy face, even if you aren’t happy. I learned that on Day 1 of training to be a camp counsellor. Surely the same adage applies in the NHL.
And the fact that Joe Bowen hasn’t been calling games on TV this year only makes the Leafs that much more unwatchable. Joe Bowen is that funny, cheerful uncle that always has a bunch of jokes and stories at family gatherings. And they took him away from us.
The Leafs motto has been “The passion that unites us all.”
Well, there is no passion left. It’s been drained out. There is only hate. And disdain. And resentment. Shall I go on?
I feel terrible for children growing up in and around Toronto that are fans of this team. There are children in high school right now that are too young to remember the Leafs ever being a good team. That truly saddens me because I grew up watching Leaf teams that consistently made the playoffs.
I now realize how spoiled I was as a child. I fear that those days of success are gone and never coming back.
But as long as the Toronto Maple Leafs are still a hockey team, there will always be next year.
And at this point, that’s all I can look forward to.