Toronto Maple Leafs
I've been so fed up with the NHL and NHLPA CBA negotiations, I've been telling everyone who will listen to just ping me when it's over. This morning, I received several pings. I guess the lockout is over and we'll have a season.
Immediately, I'm hit with two different sensations. One is anger that we had to wait 113 days and that they'd do this to us after cancelling the 2004-2005 season. They fought over a multi-billion dollar pie and we suffer. Screw 'em.
The other is delight that NHL hockey is back. I watched the entire Marlies game yesterday because I miss Leafs hockey. I've been watching for 30 years and it's a fun pastime that I can share with my family and friends. Nothing's better than sitting down on a Saturday night to watch the Leafs game with my kids. Even Monica has become a big fan instead of merely a casual follower looking for a good site to bet on march madness.
So no, there's no boycott here. I'll still watch, and if you give me a ticket, I'll even go to the ACC. And I even have silly fantasies in my head where we slip into 8th and actually win a playoff game or two. I know it's crazy, but it's what we Leaf fans hope for.
Compare the tone of this entry to my entry when the NHL and NHLPA ended the last work stoppage. I was just damn happy then. Now I'm happy but more than a little jaded.
How do you feel about the NHL returning?
Eight years ago, I was already writing pleas to Bettman and Goodenow to get a deal done so I could enjoy NHL hockey again. I really, really cared, and my heart broke when the entire season was cancelled.
Eight years later, there's that same multi-billion dollar pie being fought over by multi-millionaires, and the big losers remain us suckers who tune in and support our favourite NHL teams. Since we lost the season in 2004/2005, I've watched my Leafs miss the playoffs each and every year. I can do that again. I'm actually getting pretty good at it.
It's déjà vu all over again, but this time with a steaming pile of apathy. This time, it's different.
I think we're about to hit a new bottom... at least a new bottom for Toronto sports teams. With the Euro Cup and Olympic distractions behind us, and summer winding down, I've decided to do a quick State of the Union analysis of Toronto professional sports teams.
Toronto Blue Jays
I'm sad to say I haven't followed this team much the past few weeks. Oh... I see we're dead last in the AL East, 15 games behind the Yankees. And our wild card hopes have evaporated... and half the team is on the DL. Wasn't that new wild card supposed to belong to us? Nah, we'll finish last instead.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs haven't made the playoffs since before the last labour stoppage, and now it looks like we're heading into another. We diehards don't even get to enjoy watching our team miss the playoffs again. That might be the only thing worse than the longest non-playoff streak in the league. Sad and pitiful.
We sucked last year, and we'll suck again this season. Every analyst and pundit has assured me of that. And really, even if a miracle of miracles occurred and we slipped into 8th place in the conference, Miami would chew us up and spit us out in 4.
Firstly, I fully acknowledge that almost none of you care about the CFL. I just checked the standings and we're 3-3. That almost sounds decent until you see in an 8-team league only one team has a worse record. That shit's cray!
Lastly, we check in on our professional MLS soccer team. I remember getting off to a horrible start, but I've lost touch with them recently. I wonder how they're doing.... Oh... dead last in the Eastern Conference. That sounds about right.
So there you have it, a quick review of how it currently looks for Toronto sports teams. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we've found a brand new low.
Back in January, we had some fun speculating who would play for the Leafs in the Alumni Showdown.
The Leafs just announced their roster for this game, although they will add a few more players later. Here's who they're confirming thus far:
- Darryl Sittler
- Rick Vaive
- Darcy Tucker
- Felix Potvin
- Mike Palmateer
- Kevin Maguire
- Dave Andreychuk
- Doug Gilmour
- Wendel Clark
- Curtis Joseph
- Johnny Bower
- Ron Ellis
- Jim McKenny
We mentioned them all, except for Kevin Maguire. That choice is a bit of a shocker. Surely Ed Olczyk can get the game off from his analyst duties to play for the blue and white. And Mats is likely sitting on his decision, as an homage to the way he left the Leafs.
What's really important, and has already been mentioned by @DownGoesBrown on Twitter, is that Bob Cole call this game.
Maple Leafs great Mats Sundin has been voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining Joe Sakic, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure. This was Sundin's first year of eligibility.
Instead of dwelling on that pain, I choose to remember Mats as a great Maple Leaf, and definitely one of the greatest in my lifetime. And if you have a little time, and want to read how I managed to move on after Mats signed with Vancouver, this entry contains all the blood, sweat and tears.
Mats Sundin is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and Leafs fans should be proud.
The Leafs have a ton of defencemen, and needed to get bigger up front, so Brian Burke pulled the trigger on a deal with Philadelphia that unites the Schenn brothers in Philly and brings big left-winger James Van Riemsdyk to the blue and white.
Van Riemsdyk missed most of last season with a broken foot, but had career highs in goals (21), points (40) and a plus-15 in 75 games during the previous season.
Luke Schenn, on the other hand, was drafted by the Leafs fifth overall in 2008 and it wasn't long before we were comparing him to Scott Stevens. Ok, that was just me, but I'm so full of hope and optimism I get a over excited by a solid period of pre-season play by a Leafs prospect. I thought Jiri Tlusty was Peter Forsberg.
Since then, it became apparent that Luke Schenn wasn't Scott Stevens. He's more of a Chris Kotsopoulos.
Good luck, Luke... your Jedi skills are required elsewhere.
The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions for the first time, and then there were two. 12 teams started the 1967-68 NHL season, nine have won the Stanley Cup since, one has folded and for two, the drought continues.
For the record, here are the 12 teams from 1967-68:
- Montreal Canadiens - Last won in 1993
- New York Rangers - Last won in 1994
- Boston Bruins - Last won in 2011
- Chicago Black Hawks (Now Blackhawks) - Last won in 2010
- Toronto Maple Leafs - Still waiting...
- Detroit Red Wings - Last won in 2008
- Philadelphia Flyers - Last won in 1975
- Los Angeles Kings - Won in 2012
- St. Louis Blues - Still waiting...
- Minnesota North Stars (Now Dallas Stars) - Won in 1999
- Pittsburgh Penguins - Last won in 2009
- Oakland Seals (Long Defunct)
Damn, it was depressing writing that list. The Blues finished last season with 109 points, good for 2nd overall. Do you think they're a little closer to the cup than our Leafs? The Leafs had 80 points, good for 13th.... IN THE CONFERENCE.
Congratulations Kings fans... I know how you feel. Back 2 Back in '92/'93!
Andy Gray from Sports Illustrated is tweeting Toronto-centric pictures this afternoon.
I'm a Toronto-centric kind of guy who loves sports (and gets Sports Illustrated every week), so I'm collecting them all here along with Andy's accompanying tweets and some commentary from yours truly.
AG: Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, Todd Stottlemyre & Juan Guzman pose at a 1993 SI photo shoot
TM: Damn, I miss these days. I once stalked Stottlemyre at the CNE to get his autograph.
AG: Toronto Argonauts owners Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and John Candy attend a 1991 game
TM: The kids and I just watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A few months ago, we watched Uncle Buck. I miss John Candy.
AG: SI photographer John McDonough took this great shot of Vince Carter
TM: Nope, I'm still not ready to make nice.
AG: Felix Potvin and his cat pose for a 1982 (sic) SI photo shoot
TM: Of course, Andy meant 1992. Speaking of stuff I miss, damn I miss Felix Potvin and this Leafs team that made the Conference finals twice in the early 90s.
AG: How amazing was this Toronto promotion (from 1946 Knicks-Huskies game)?
TM: I hate the name "Raptors" and wish we had gone with "Huskies".
AG: Get your cigar, recline your La-Z-Boy. We're going with Toronto photos all day. David Wells is excited!
TM: I saw STP and RHCP with David Wells... sorta.
AG: Tie Domi and Lyle Odelein get acquainted during a 2000 game between the Leafs and Devils
TM: My old pal.
AG: Marcus Camby poses for a photo at Raptors Media Day in 1997
TM: I can't believe Camby is still playing. He's old... he's my age!
AG: Blue Jays shortstop Danny Ainge in action
TM: NBA star Danny Ainge started at third for the Jays back in 1981. Here are the other starting third basemen in Blue Jays history.
AG: Joe Theismann in action with the Toronto Argonauts during the 1972 season
TM: This is the first photo, outside the Huskies ticket, that doesn't bring back memories.
AG: Cousins Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter in 1999
TM: T-Mac never seemed happy.
AG: Kelly Gruber celebrates Toronto Day at the SI Vault (for @GrubersMullet and Gruber lovers everywhere)
AG: Roberto Alomar lays out for a catch during the 1992 World Series against Atlanta
TM: The greatest Blue Jay of all-time.
AG: Toronto fans celebrate after the Blue Jays won the 1992 World Series
TM: I'll never forget.
AG: Jesse Barfield and his son let their Soul Glo before a 1996 (sic) Blue Jays-Orioles game
TM: I loved Barfield, and I love this picture. There's my Exhibition Stadium in what is likely 1986. Barfield had a cannon for an arm.
AG: Wendel Clark scores a goal during a 1993 Caps-Leafs game
TM: All heart.
AG: Canadian legend Tim Horton played 18 seasons for the Maple Leafs in the '50s and '60s
TM: That's right, kids. Tim Horton was a Leaf. In fact, he was one of the greatest Leafs.
AG: Dave Keon and Pierre Pilote chase down a loose puck during a 1967 Maple Leafs-Blackhawks game
TM: I missed Keon's entire career, but I caught his return.
AG: Brian McNamee stretches out Roger Clemens before a 1997 Toronto-Baltimore game
TM: Roger Clemens, part of baseball's lost generation.
AG: How did Chris Bosh let SI take this photo of him?
AG: SI's Chuck Solomon with a great aerial shot of Joe Carter scoring the winning run of the 1993 World Series
TM: Joe touched 'em all, and it's been all downhill since then.
AG: Toronto Day is over as I have to meet Robbie Alomar at his Skydome hotel room for dinner. Hope you enjoyed
TM: Fess up, Toronto. How many of you slept with Roberto Alomar?
When the Kings finish off the Devils, yet another franchise will win the Stanley Cup In my lifetime. You probably know where I'm going with this...
My Leafs haven't won the cup since 1967, but they also haven't played in a Stanley Cup final since 1967. So let's look at the list of teams that have played in a Stanley Cup final in the years since 1967. It's quite the long and depressing list.
- Ottawa Senators
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Calgary Flames
- New Jersey Devils
- Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
- Detroit Red Wings
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Colorado Avalanche
- Dallas Stars
- Buffalo Sabres
- Washington Capitals
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Florida Panthers
- New York Rangers
- Vancouver Canucks
- Montreal Canadiens
- Los Angeles Kings
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Minnesota North Stars
- Edmonton Oilers
- Boston Bruins
- New York Islanders
- St. Louis Blues
Here are the active teams that haven't played in a Stanley Cup final since 1967.
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Winnipeg Jets (formerly Atlanta Thrashers)
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Minnesota Wild
- Nashville Predators
- Phoenix Coyotes (formerly Winnipeg Jets)
- San Jose Sharks
If we move the Leafs aside for a moment, do you notice anything unique about the other six teams above? They're all pretty new franchises. The San Jose Sharks are the oldest team in the books having played their first season in 1991-92. If you're looking for the worst franchise drought outside of Toronto, you can look at the Coyotes who played their first NHL season in 1979-80. Still, this isn't quite the same thing and doesn't come close to our stretch of futility.
I'd like to watch my team play in a Stanley Cup final before I die. It might be nice to win one, too. Is that too much to ask?
Following that last entry, I felt I needed some eye bleach... a spiritual virtual cleanse of sorts. Sounds like a job for All Heart, the greatest Wendel Clark tribute video in the history of the world.
Wendel Clark is all heart. Watch thrice daily for optimal results.
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