Toronto Maple Leafs

Bad As It Seems: A Leaf Fan Laments

leafsI was certain we hit bottom last October. Hell, that was a good rant... here it is again in its entirety.

It's never been easy being a Leafs fan. I discovered the team in the early 80s and endured some painful seasons when I was too young to expect any better. One of my best early memories of the team was a first round sweep of the Chicago Black Hawks. We were forced to make a lot out of very little.

Six and half years ago, I was using this blog to ask God "Why?".

What exactly do you have against my Toronto Maple Leafs? Why to you use your omnipotent power to crush us at every opportunity? You tortured us with the Harold Ballard regime, forcing me to grow up in a decade almost completely void of playoff victories. Then, when everything lined up perfectly for a Habs-Leafs Stanley Cup Final in '93, you gave The Great One yet another break and used your mighty power to blind the refs as Gretzky clearly high-sticked Gilmour. We deserved to win that night. You made sure it didn't happen.

I follow my Leafs today as closely as I ever did. You could argue I follow them closer than ever, because I now follow their AHL affiliate quite closely. I don't miss a game, I blog about every significant Leaf-related event and not a day goes by that I don't read about my team and think about my team. It's never been particularly easy to be a Leafs fan, but I don't think it's ever been harder than it is right now.

My daughter is just about five and a half years old. The Leafs haven't played a playoff game in her lifetime. This is an unprecedented streak of failure for a team that hasn't won the Stanley Cup in 42 years.

When Brian Burke came on board, we were given something we haven't had in quite some time. We had hope. I'll never forget his quote following the 2008/2009 campaign. "We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence." During the off-season, Burke made several moves to increase our levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. During the pre-season, I'm sure we led the league in fights. We were told that we may not win the Stanley Cup this season, but teams weren't going to look forward to playing us.

I'd argue that teams are looking forward to playing us. It's the surest thing to a guaranteed two points there is in today's NHL. In seven games, every team we've face has earned their two points, and most of them have done it rather easily. We've been outscored 11-2 by opponents in first periods and the average score in our games has been 4.57 - 2.

We're 0-6-1, our goaltending has been brutal, our lack of offensive skill has been exposed and our abundance of tough defensemen have failed to gel. There's talk of making our greatest prospect a healthy scratch, our coach is unfireable and we've traded away our next two first round picks. Don't ya see! In any other season, we'd get behind a "Let's Finish Last" campaign in the hopes we'd score our first first over all selection since Wendel Clark. But in Leafs Nation, we don't figure out how to lose properly until it benefits a division rival.

I've been a massive fan for about 30 years, but now I'm stuck watching a terrible team with little hope. With a healthy Monster and Phil Kessel, our best hope is that we actually win a handful of games, maybe make our Saturday nights a little brighter by being somewhat competitive. After 30 years of investing blood, sweat and tears, I think I deserve better. I think we deserve better.

Brian Burke, this is your team. I don't believe pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence is enough. We're going to need some skill. We're going to need true leadership. We're going to need real hope.

Fix this mess before we jump ship and raise our kids to be Penguins fans.

Then, just last January, I did it again. That was another sweet rant, I'm pasting it down.

I thought I hit the bottom last October. I had just come to the realization that my five and a half year old daughter had not been alive for a single Leafs playoff game. We Leaf fans are enduring an unprecedented streak of failure for a team that hasn't won the Stanley Cup in 42 years.

standings

Four months later, it's gotten worse. For the first time since I discovered the team in the early 80s, I hate my Maple Leafs. We've been this bad before, we've even been worse, but as a wise man once tweeted, the 2009-10 Toronto Maple Leafs "have no redeeming qualities whatsoever".

radio-raheem-do-the-right-thing

It's okay hating your favourite team. I feel I've earned the right. After 30 years of investing blood, sweat and tears, I know I deserve better. And in lieu of better, I'm going to do what feels natural, and that means hating this hateful, brutal team.

I knew we found a new bottom when I got free tickets to next Tuesday nights game at the ACC and I didn't feel the excitement I've felt every time prior. I'm not even looking forward to watching my team live and that scares saddens me.

The Passion That Afflicts Us All

It's bad, folks. I hate my favourite team. I can't stop watching them, or reading about them, or writing about them, but I sure as hell can hate them. And I do.

I just finished watching the Leafs completely mail it in against the Edmonton Oilers. We were blown out 5-0, but more concerning than that, we didn't seem to care. I don't remember this team quitting like that before, and if Ron Wilson isn't gone tomorrow, he's never going anywhere.

Again, we're 28th in the NHL, without a first round pick in the draft next June, without a bona-fide blue chip prospect in the organization and with absolutely no hope.

I watched the entire game, but it wasn't fun. It was painful. It was depressing. It's as bad as it seems.

And it's only going to get worse. Sigh.

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Try It For A Week, Change Your Life: The Barilkosphere Challenge

LeafsThis afternoon, I interviewed Habs blogger The Active Stick for a job. At some point during our conversation, we compared the Barilkosphere to the Habs blogosphere.

The first thing you need to know about the comparison is that we're united under the awesome handle "Barilkosphere" while they're divided under the cumbersome name "Habs Blogosphere". As we talked, The Active Stick seemed envious, as if she really wanted to be a part of our club. That's when I challenged her...

"Try rooting for the Leafs for one week and I promise you'll never look back."

It's true, we haven't played in a Stanley Cup final during my lifetime, but cheering for the Leafs is good for the soul, spiritually fulfilling and a whole lot of fun. The Barilkosphere is smarter, funnier and better looking as a whole than online fans of any other team, especially the Montreal Canadiens. A Habs fan would be unable to hate our Leafs after spending a week in our shoes. They'd never look back.

Are there any fans of other teams willing to take The Barilkosphere Challenge? Give us a week and we'll change your life. I'm looking right at you, The Active Stick.

Our Most Important Ornament

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Can't Wait Anymore HNIC Montage

puckThe montage that opened Saturday night's Leafs / Habs match-up on Hockey Night in Canada was pretty awesome. I've been critical lately of these opening HNIC montages as they've been pretty weak so far this season, but this one was a winner.

The song is Paul Langlois' "Can't Wait Anymore" from his new solo album. It's perfect for this footage. If you don't know who Paul Langlois is, you're not Canadian.

I just wish we'd won the game.

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Maple Leafs on Mastermind

leafsI love trivia. I love the Maple Leafs. I loved this clip.

It's from Mastermind, a British quiz show, and it's comedian Stewart Francis being peppered with trivia questions about our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.

[via Pension Plan Puppets]

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Pat Burns, Dead at 58

In MemoriumPat Burns was 58. He is the only Maple Leafs coach to win the Jack Adams Trophy as NHL Coach of the Year by leading the club to a 44-29-11 record in 1992-93 in his first season behind the Toronto bench. He remains the only NHL bench boss in history to earn the award three times, winning it with Montreal in 1989 and with Boston in 1998. The Leafs’ resurgence in 1992-93, with Burns at the helm, marked the first time that the Original Six franchise advanced to the Conference Final since the 1977-78 campaign. The team would repeat their playoff success the following season in 1994 under his leadership.

With the Leafs, Burns posted a coaching record of 133-107-41 (.546%) in 281 games behind the bench. On the Leafs’ All-Time Coaching List, Burns is tied with Red Kelly for fifth place in victories.

Overall, he coached in 1,019 NHL games in 15 seasons from 1988 to 2005 and compiled a record of 501-353-165. He coached the Devils to a Stanley Cup title in 2003.

I'll never forget Pat Burns and his Leafs teams of the early 90s. They truly were the best.

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Nazem Kadri's 2010 Debut Is Only 60 Minutes Away

kadri debutI remember when we drafted Nazem Kadri. It was a time when we actually got to draft in the first round. It's amazing how excited you can get about a first round selection...

I remember his NHL debut. Actually, it's his only NHL game. He was an emergency call-up against the Sharks and we all expected he'd make the team out of training camp this year. At least I did. Instead, he was sent to the Marlies and only a month and half ago Brian Burke dropped this little quote on us:

His play right now indicates that he’s not ready at all to contribute at this level.

That line broke my heart. Here in Toronto, we eat our young. I'm thinking of my buddy Justin Pogge and the countless other "future greats" who crumbled under the weight of our sky high expectations. Kadri was deemed "not ready" by our GM and then went on to record five goals and nine assists through 14 games with the Marlies. I guess he's ready now...

Nazem-Kadri

It might reek of desperation, but it's given tonight's game an additional spark. I know I'll be watching #43 closely tonight... unless he's wearing #91 or #13. In under an hour, we'll know exactly what to do.

Update: He's #43. Set your sights accordingly.

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Loquaciously Combative When Lacking Factual Ammunition

leafsDisappointed in recent efforts from my Leafs, I wrote this. They then went out and laid an egg against the Panthers.

That entry did entice a chap who goes by the handle Whitby - Clark to wax poetic on the subject. The following words are his, and they are beautiful.

How can one emerge loquaciously combative when lacking factual ammunition?
In a perceptive state of despondence and exasperation I simply cannot congregate the fortitude required for the organization of an argumentative campaign. Alas; for this day I fall nothing short of incapable and disinclined.

Scarcity of integrity would be an acute definition to verbalize the least.
I fall witness to atrociousness; save Luke Schenn.
Failed attempts to provide victorious engagements have left this devotee in dishevelment. Depleted passion has seen the crescendo of inner animosities and discouragements regarding said saddening situation. Perhaps promises of gratifying ventures towards the horizons have become sequestered in an unobtainable fashion.
Absence of light at the cessation of the thoroughfare has left our denouement undistinguishable.

To you; issuance of surrender is the offering, accompanied by ones utmost sincere humility.
The branding has now become scarring as the wounds struggle through cauterization.
However be forewarned; vainglorious boasting will not bode will amongst the nation.
There will be a turn of tide, we will win again.

*while providing necessary amendments towards quotations care-of lunar expeditionary;*

“That’s one small step for [a] FAN, one giant leap for LEAFS NATION”

Degradationally,

Whitby - Clark

Just one thing... Leafs Nation is our slave name. In truth, drenched and blue and white forever, we are the Barilkosphere.

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Darkest Before the Dawn (And Other Such Bullshit)

LeafsArgh, I did it again. On October 16, following the Leafs' 4th win in their first 4 games, I declared it was feeling a little like '93. That was way stupid and way premature.

But that's the problem when you've endured such futility for over half a decade. You start to see what you want to see. Suddenly, Dion Phaneuf is Chris Pronger and Phil Kessel is Sidney Crosby. Hell, Phil Kessel is Han Solo. And Giguere, he's Patrick Roy. That's how it is here in the centre of the universe. We're starving for success and we see it everywhere as mirages and delusions of grandeur.

I believe in being accountable for my actions, so I'll take full blame for that crap I wrote on October 16. A 4-0 start fucked with our expectation levels and messed with our blue and white psyches. We're back to 11th in the conference, pretty much where you'd expect this team to be. Our true hopes and dreams aren't that we enjoy a Stanley Cup parade on Yonge Street this June but that we somehow play over our heads and slip into 8th in the conference.

Now that we're 1-6-3 in our last 10 games, what the hell do we do? Is it time to fire Ron Wilson?

Remember, it's darkest before the dawn. We'll be okay...

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Doug Gilmour Tribute

leafsMy favourite Toronto Maple Leaf of all-time is #93 Doug Gilmour.

YouTube user jokeswithoutlaughter is sharing a great tribute to Doug Gilmour entitled "Teach Me How To Dougie".

I've been trying to figure out how to Dougie for twenty years now.

[via Down Goes Brown]

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Bill Barilko Audio Recording - Listen to Bill Barilko Speak

Bill BarilkoFor the longest time, I was #1 in Google when you searched for Bill Barilko. Something called Wikipedia has since passed me, but I'm usually #2. I've maintained a tribute to Bashin' Bill for a decade, complete with video evidence of his overtime winner in '51, but I've never heard his voice... until today.

A site called barilko.ca is now hosting audio recordings of Bill Barilko. It's surreal hearing Barilko speak for the first time after wearing his #5 jersey all these years. Listen to him here chatting with his older brother Alex in Hollywood where Bill was playing for the Wolves in the PCHL. It's a greeting for their mother and sister Anne back home in Timmins.

[via @barilko]

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