(c) Geoff Brookes
Over the past 12 months, the Toronto Maple Leafs have reorganized their front office (Brendan Shanahan taking over), and fired their head coach (Randy Carlyle).
This would not normally be newsworthy, except for two salient points:
It occurred in the centre of the Universe; and
It happened to the Leafs – the once proud rival to those pesky Habitants.
I think that Rex Murphy provides the best perspective on the place of the Toronto Maple Leafs in modern hockey history, in this now famous rant:
rex murphy toronto maple leafs rant
In a world where Toronto strives to be the leader of Canadian cities, and would love to play in the same sandbox as New York City, the Toronto Maple Leafs are…embarrassing. They are sometimes called “the Laffs”.
I like the one about the Canadian “good samaritan”, who finds a beaten and robbed man on a roadside, wearing a Leafs jersey. “I couldn’t leave him like that,” the good samaritan says. “I put a Habs jersey overtop.”
If you count Brendan Shanahan, they’ve now had 12 different general managers since they last won a cup. This could be a good thing for the Leafs. They might not want to make it 13 GMs before they taste from the famous mug. Might be bad luck.
As Rex Murphy says, it’s been longer than the time that it takes to grow the trees that they used to use to make hockey sticks, since they’ve been invited to Lord Stanley’s party.
Is it a case of GM’s wilting under the pressure of the Toronto market? Of them losing their minds? Is their lead in the water pipes? Asbestos in the insulation?
How else do you explain building a franchise around Phil Kessel?
Or, maybe it’s hockey equivalent of “the curse of the babe”. Is it the ghost of Harold Ballard, re-enacting the banishment of Dave Keon? The trading of Darryl Sittler and Lanny MacDonald? How about Randy Caryle, traded to Pittsburgh just before winning the Norris trophy?
Or is there something quintessentially Canadian in this? A collective self-abasement? The ultimate “I’m sorry”?
Whatever the answer may be, Randy Carlyle has just had his first good sleep in a few years. I can picture him emerging from purgatory with his life intact, raising a beer in toast “to life”.
Welcome back, Stanley Cup winning coach, Randy Carlye. You’ve proven the Eagles’ lyrics to be wrong. You’ve checked out, and you managed to leave OK.