Over the implosion of a last month of the Leafs season, there has been a common theme in the journalism of the moment. Who is really to blame for the Maple Leafs collapse and how can it be fixed going forward? It seems like a logical step to go through the various opinions and separate fact from fiction.
If you ask Brian Burke, he has a lot of reasons. The media pressure, the market in general, the difficulty of the NHL, the fact that players are programmed at birth to hate the Maple Leafs. Burke has blamed a lot of people. By default he blamed Ron Wilson for part of the failure when he excused him. He blames Dave Feschuk for calling James Reimers mother, and Damien Cox for, well, just being Damien Cox.
If you ask Ron Wilson, it was the goalies fault. For the most part Wilson was never shy to back a bus over his goal tender after a tough game. He was always alluding to the saves that the team didn’t get. Wilson blamed his defenseman which was evidence by the fact that they played musical chairs as healthy scratches. He also though Colton Orr was a problem, although it’s fair to point out that in the time Orr was with the Leafs, he outscored Phillipe Dupuis, who was given a much longer audition. It wasn’t Dupuis fault until it was. Right before he was dismissed, it was Brian Burkes fault, which is likely why he was fired.
If you ask the media, well those opinions are across the board. It was the monsters fault before he got good, then it was Scrivens that couldn’t win at home. Reimer, who was clearly suffering post concussion syndrome, was only to blame when he began to play poorly after his injury (it’s a good thing Wilson gave that advice not to erect a statue, what a waste it would have been). It was Wilsons fault for pretty much everything except global warming (he was an avid subway rider). Mike Komisarek is to blame for signing a contract when it was offered, as was Colby Armstrong and now Mikhail Grabovski. It’s Phil Kessel’s fault because he isn’t a complete player, and he must be traded because he may never be one. See what I mean? Across the board.
If you ask the fans, it sounds a lot more like the Media. Burke, Wilson, Teachers, all hold some responsibility for the state of the team and all should be punished for their sins. None of this is incorrect, but they still only hold some responsibility
The truth of the matter is, although parts of all of the above statements is true, the true person responsible is much different. Get up, go into your bedroom or bathroom and look in the mirror. You are the reason the Leafs suck. I am also the reason, and so is everybody else that supports this franchise. We buy the tickets to the games, the jerseys, the hats, the t-shirts, and all of the other junk that comes with being a sports fan. We line up for hours when the players become available for autographs and funny enough, we never actually tell them what we think when we get to the front of the line. You know, the things we yell at our television and pour out on twitter and facebook and anywhere else where anybody will listen. We travel to other cities, places that couldn’t line their stands with cardboard cutouts, and pay top dollar to get in to see what Brian Burke affectionately calls “Big Blue”
In short, we enable them to be what they are. We are the drug dealers and money is our drug. We have it, they want it, and as long as we keep giving it to them they don’t have to change a damned thing. Nor will they. As long as the organization that runs this hockey team feels no pinch in the wallet from the misery of the fans, they have zero incentive to make any productive changes at all. Imagine any other business that was continually among the poorest performing in production but still earned the highest amount of money. Very few have the luxury of this kind of marketplace.
Some will ask what I suggest be done here, and what my motivations are. Both are simple questions and the answers are even easier. Don’t go to the games. Don’t watch on television or buy the merchandise. Not out of malice or spite, but simply to send the message to this group of people that top dollar for an inferior product will no longer be accepted. Take the Chicago Blackhawks road and let the empty seats speak for you. The Bruins did this for years as well. Don’t pay Stanley Cup prices for draft lottery products. Don’t line Bell and Rogers pockets as we did the Teachers Pension for over a decade. Let the accountants figure out how unacceptable this is, and just maybe it will be sent in a memo down to hockey operations where the complaint may actually get answered.
For years Harold Ballard ran this operation as it was his own personal cash register with no results to show for it (not coincidentally he was incarcerated for exactly this). He was vile and disrespectful to the people that covered the team, and quite frankly this organization could not miss him less. The legacy he left is unfortunately alive and well, and until the fans stand up and say “no more”, this will go on forever.
In closing, I know the above message was beyond harsh. I had to convince myself over and over it was the right thing to write. It unfortunately for all of us needs to be said, otherwise we are doomed to stay in this abyss for eternity.