It wasn’t too long ago when the Toronto Maple Leafs were considered one of the premier franchises in the National Hockey League. Year after year, the white-and-blue consistently contended with the league’s top teams and made regular appearances in the playoffs.
However, the only regular appearances the Leafs have been making recently have been at the golf course. Ever since the lockout, the Maple Leafs have resided in the cellar of the NHL, making minimal progress as the team seemed to refuse to believe that they needed to rebuild.
Instead, the organization would attempt to plant hope in their fans’ minds by signing washed-up free agents at the tail end of their careers. This resulted in teams of old injury-prone players surrounded by minimal young talent that had become a necessity for success in the post-lockout style of play. At the same time, the Leafs lost draft picks in attaining these players, which gave the team no chance to rebuild. In the same time frame, we have witnessed teams such as Washington, Pittsburgh and Chicago rise from long stays in the league’s doghouse, as well as teams from Detroit, Philadelphia and Calgary that continue to make annual appearances in the playoffs.
Amidst the roaring crowd in the ACC, anybody could confuse the Toronto Maple Leafs for the top sports team of its time. But sadly, it doesn’t take long to realize that this franchise has, in the words of its fanatics, “lost its swagger.”
What happened? The fall from grace for one of hockey’s original six teams seemed to have little effect on the business of the sport in Toronto, Canada’s financial capital. Each night, the arena sells out. Leafs jerseys are still the hottest commodity.
But wins, something formerly taken for granted by the Leafs, are now few and far between. Hockey’s richest franchise now finds itself as a bottom feeder. I am no business major, but I can safely speculate that without a salary cap, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be doing a lot better. However, this is not 2003; the “New York Yankees of hockey” are starting to look more like the Toronto Blue Jays. Power and money are two different things in 2011’s NHL.
Optimism is difficult at the moment; the Toronto Maple leafs are 13th in the Eastern conference and poised for yet another post-season watching highlights in the clubhouse at the country club.
Torontonians are longing for the Leafs to be restored to a Cup-winning franchise.
It is safe to say that most Laurier Brantford students were not alive to see the last time the Leafs lifted Lord Stanley’s mug. For the sake of the ego of every Torontonian, I hope the next generation can at the very least experience playoff hockey.