When people of today’s young generations think of the biggest team in professional baseball, the New York Yankees, they have a mile long list of names that could be identified with. Most people in their 20’s and 30’s would probably say that the face of the franchise is Derek Jeter, understandably so. Jeter was drafted 6’th overall by the Yankees in 1992, and between then and now has nestled himself among legends for his performances in the most important of games. The guy has been a staple of the team for 15 years, and he is still going strong.
Brian Burke often speaks of the great Conn Smythes club in the same manner as the New York Yankees, although the Chicago Cubs might be more accurate. The Leafs do have a storied history that while not seeing much success lately, still has the second most Stanley Cup banners behind the Montreal Canadiens. The current lengthy drought has many wondering what direction the club will go, but after watching an ESPN special on the Yankees, I think there is a more basic question. Who will be the Toronto Maple Leafs Derek Jeter?
My fondest memories as a fan have to go back to Doug Gilmour and Wendell Clark, but the legend they hold over the club is growing long. It has been a decade since the team last got close to the cup in a series against the Carolina Hurricanes, and most kids in their early teens would be too young to have even realized what was going on. In between, looking at the roster, I can’t identify a single player and say “that guy defines what it is to be a member of the Leafs”
The biggest trouble this team has right now is that it’s most recognizable figure happens to be a guy that doesn’t even play hockey. Somebody should keep count for how many times Brian Burke appears on camera from the managers box during any game. Ironically enough, he is the George Steinbrenner of hockey right now, only he has no ownership rights to the team. Is this a good thing? Probably not. Any time that the focus of the fans is not on the players, it just means that the team is that bad. And they are that bad.
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The Coyotes-Predators series started tonight amid little fanfare in the television community. When browsing through the early cable ratings this morning, the game did not even register on the list. This means that beyond being beat out by reruns of The Family Guy and Law and Order, the game got less than a .2 share nationally. The game may have done very well in the local markets, but the national number still has to be a concern. For what it’s worth, the game was good, almost requiring 2 overtimes to settle. The NHL did not do itself any favors in promoting the game, or lack thereof.
While on the subject of television ratings, most people including myself, in theorizing that the fighting is going to put a blemish on the NHL must admit being wrong. The numbers for the games that exhibited Vegas style boxing also had people tuned in the longest. While I do not approve of the wrestling style games that went on in the Penguins-Flyers series, it clearly is what people want to see. The question is, who will provide that kind of a series in the second round?
Listening to Steve Cangialosi, the Devils play by play man, spoke of the upcoming series against the Flyers as though the Devils had already won. Strong words from a team that squeaked by the “weak” Florida Panthers. My advice to Mr Cangialosi and all other Devils fans that for some reason think that Martin Brodeur is 20 years old, wait until the games are played to make bold statements. The Flyers have a very talented group offensively and while it may appear that Ilya Bryzgalov fell off his game, just look at the jerseys of the other team. Malkin, Crosby, Staal, Letang, Neal, only to name a few.
The NHL had to breathe a sigh of relief after Wednesday night, having both the Senators and the Panthers eliminated. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but having New York, New Jersey, and Boston all black during the post season had to make stomachs in Manhattan a little queasy. They already have to deal with Nashville and Phoenix this round, which despite television numbers will provide some very good hockey. Just imagine Phoenix advancing through to the Stanley Cup Finals, and possibly having to be relocated only weeks later.