Toronto Maple Leafs v Vancouver Canucks

Toronto Maple Leafs: Why Have the Leafs Sucked for 47 Years?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most financially successful team in the NHL. The Leafs are more valuable than the 5 least rich teams in the league. They are worth an estimated 1.15 billion dollars, and are the only NHL team worth more than a billion. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup in 47 years. The irony of the Leafs having such monetary success with so little on the ice is staggering. An organization which virtually sells out every game and has the financial power to make itself one of the most well equipped elite franchises in all of sports. Even in a salary cap based system. A team who has just has failed to achieve hockey’s ultimate goal for so long. Why have the Leafs failed like they have? Why are they on the end of so many jokes? ESPN recently ranked them to be the worst franchise in North America of all of the major 4 sports leagues, are they?

Although some may answer that they just plain “suck”, or they do not care about winning because they are purely motivated by money, the real reason may be more complex. A sports franchise is a business. They have a management group who manufactures a product which they attempt to sell to customers. There is a front office, a team and fans. Additionally, something they don’t have in common with all businesses, including some in the same league, is that there is a portion of the media devoted to scrutinizing them to near tabloid proportions.

 

The Front Office

Carlyle and Shanahan speaking at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. (Getty Images – Bruce Bennett via Getty Images)

A great amount of the responsibility may fall on the people who have put together the Maple Leaf’s teams for the last 47 years. There have been many different General Mangers, Coaches, Scouts and Hockey Experts of all kinds who have failed to ice a team which was able to win the cup. Although the front office at times has made horrible decisions, they have been able to produce teams which may have been capable of winning it all that simply failed to do so.

The Leaf’s brass have made some horrible trades which have had a huge impact on the direction of the team. There are many elite level players who could have been Leafs if it was not for questionable trades since 1967. A couple of current NHL players who could be Leafs if the team did not make impulsive moves include Tuuka Rask, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Although the jury is still out on the Kessel trade, the Rask trade is one that may have been truly consequential. What if Rask was in net for the Leafs instead of Reimer against the Bruins? The silver lining is that maybe the Leafs have learned from the mistakes of the past. It is easy to focus on the negatives but the Leafs have also made good transactions, especially recently, and they do seem to have turned a corner with respect to not moving young players and mortgaging the future.

 

The Players

The Leafs saluting the fans after a disappointing season. (Getty Images – Abelimages via Getty Images)

The players have come in many different shapes and sizes but one thing they all have in common is they have failed to win the Stanley Cup for the Maple Leafs since 1967. Are the players who suit up for the Blue and White typically not as motivated as those for more successful teams? Are they less talented? Is the celebrity aspect of playing in the market too much for the stereotypical modest hockey player to handle?

Over a 47 year period a team is going to have it’s share of good and bad players no matter the franchise, it would be difficult to say that over the last 47 years there has not been a group of players for the Leafs who were talented enough to win the Cup. They just failed to do so. However, playing in Toronto has to be a unique experience for any player, especially if that player grew up as a Leafs fan or in the Toronto area. One way it is different than any other franchise except for maybe Montreal is that on a daily basis, the players are recognized by fans more than they would if they were playing for another franchise. The attention a Maple Leaf player has on a daily basis could be a good or bad thing, if things are going well the fans that they speak to are going to be positive, but if things are going well they are going to hear about which could really dish a blow to their confidence, a confidence that is essential for the success of an athlete.

A certain amount of accountability does fall on the shoulders of the players as it is their job to win. There are a plethora of reasons why they may have failed to do so but moving forward they need to make an effort to recognize not only the positive affects of playing for the Leafs but also the factors which may be detrimental to their game and adjust accordingly.

 

The Fans

The fans of the Maple Leafs may not literally bleed blue, but they are willing to bleed for their favorite team. A more loyal following for a sports team may not exist. Through the good and the bad ,but mainly the awful, the fans still cannot get enough of their Leafs. The fans are the reason why the Leafs are the most successful team financially but they may also be contributing to the lack of success on the ice.

There is something unique about being a Leafs fan, imagine waking up every morning and knowing your day was going to be great until about 7 o’clock PM, at which point Chuck Liddel was going to punch you in your face. Well, that’s what being a Leafs fan is all about. Some would call it insanity but there is more to it than that. Leafs fans are loyal and patient and they know that one day Chuck Liddel is going to trip, fall and break his leg on route to the daily face punching. That is when possibly the most glorious moment in all of sports will occur and the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup. Until then fans need to remember that the players are humans too and as much as they may want to crucify a certain player on any given day of the week they have to try to be patient, supportive and most of all positive because the players are aware of their mistakes and they are also aware of what a Stanley Cup would mean to the city of Toronto. Although sometimes it may not seem like it sometimes, they want it as bad as the fans do.

 

The Media

Morgan Rielly being interviewed as an 18 year old rookie who had never played an NHL game. (Getty Images – Bruce Bennett via Getty Images)

How many times has Phil Kessel skated this off-season? Did Phil Kessel disagree with one of his coaches? How many waffles did Phil Kessel have for breakfast today? The media following for the Leafs has reached a point where it is at times more similar to the tabloid than it is to a credible news source. Although most of the Leafs reporters are decent, honest reporters, the few who are not seem to get the most attention. Part of the reason they may report on some of the ridiculous things they do is because they are not concerned with the success of the team. They are concerned with generating a buzz and are willing to say anything to create that buzz because it makes them and their bosses money.

This lack of regard from the media could be more consequential than some would think. It may cause enough extra pressure on the players and managers to be considered a common factor for the lack of the success for the Leafs. Additionally, it causes impressionable fans to formulate opinions which do not always make sense. The players do see the headlines, as do the coaches, managers, and fans. When things are going well it might boost their confidence, but it could also overly inflate egos. When things do not go well it could also hurt their confidence more than on other teams.

 

The Conclusion

The Leafs have not been successful in far too long. Overall there is more than one reason for the drought, it is probably a mixture of the players, management, fans, and media. Until the Leafs finally win their next Stanley Cup there will be doubt as to whether the team really is a legendary franchise. They have the resources and support, they just need to take the next step as an organization and commit to being successful. They cannot overreact as they have have in the past and make impulsive moves, they cannot give up on their young talent and mortgage the future, and they must do everything in their power to create an advantage on and off the ice. If the Leafs are the most successful organization financially as they have been so unsuccessful on the ice, the potential for the franchise once they succeed on the ice is boundless. What would you do to fix the Leafs?

 

Cover photo: (Getty Images – Joel Auerbach via Getty Images)

Comments

  1. AvatarJames Beardsley

    The Leafs need to blow it up like every original 6 team has done. People forget the hawks sucked for 10 years until toews and Kane were drafted. The wings sucked all throughout the 70s and early 80s til yzerman got there. Leafs fans suck it up be patient and get rid of everyone

    Reply
  2. Leaf is the most followed nhl team which makes them the richest team also. Canadian are die hard fans of ice hockey and they follow each play off game no matter leaf is in play offs ir not. Whereas Americans lose interest the moment their team is out of play offs. There is no need of canadian club to win Stanley cup.

    Reply
    • Avatarresponder

      raj is right Canadians follow the NHL even if there team is not in the playoffs

      Reply
  3. Thank you for your post. As a recent newcomer to Toronto, ex-Montrealer and Habs fan I can only feel sorry for Leaf fans. The reality is that it is extremely difficult to produce a winning hockey team in the NHL. It must come from the TOP. Unfortunately, the owners of the Leafs don’t care about winning, nor do they care about hockey; they care about return on investment. MLSE is a company run by technocrats, not hockey men. Most successful teams have a person or family who drive the team and its development. (Montreal, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, St-Louis, …) Toronto will never win anything with its ownership.

    Reply
  4. AvatarSteven

    Until the Fans stop paying for sub-par performance with above average ticket prices this team / the franchise has no worries – TML should offer fans their money back if the team fails to make the Playoff season, perhaps then they (including Mgt,) may step a little livelier.

    Reply
  5. Agreed. The fans need to be the motivator to the ownership. The fans must abandon the team for a season or two, and stop buying all the merchandise. Only then will there be consequences. A half empty stadium will send the right message, and will also lower ticket prices for a season or two down the road. Everyone wins!

    Reply
    • Agreed man. I’m a Leafs fan for life, nothing is going to ever change that (teams suck, that’s sports for you), but I completely agree. I hate watching the game and seeing that games are sold out, but the lower bowl is half empty for half of the game, and when they are filled, it’s by “the suits” who aren’t even sporting jerseys! The culture sucks in Toronto, that’s for sure, but nothing was better than when the Leafs made the playoffs 2 seasons ago, it was an unreal feeling seeing the city go nuts. Until next time I guess…

      Reply
  6. AvatarRhyging

    The Leafs dont win because the NHL is a bunch of Merican Communist bullshit. The great leaders of “capitalism” have turned the NHL into a communist farce. Toronto fans HAVE won a Stanley Cup in the past 10 years, just for other cities. That’s right! All our love for the biggest losers on the ice equal money being sent to shitty cities that DO NOT WANT OR DESERVE an NHL team and that is fact. We subsidies teams that shouldnt exist for cities that dont support or want them and they go on to win the Stanley Cup. The Leafs will only get better when WE STOP SUPPORTING THEM. Think about it, if Starbucks made as much as they currently do but sold burnt coffee and sock tea, do you think they would change or get better? No they would stay course, as if it ain’t broke, dont fix it. The Toronto fans are to blame for this absurdity, stop selling out games, stop buying their shitty jerseys, ask the bartender to turn off the game (any NHL game). NHL does not care for Canada, even though it is our game. We tried to get a new team to cheer for and they blocked it, after that there is no hope for the NHL in Canada. STOP SUPPORTING IT! The Cup hasnt been won by a Canadian team in over 20 years and that’s only if we count Montreal as Canada :\

    Reply
    • AvatarAnonymous

      Dude, get stuffed. I’ve been a Habs fan for over 40 years, and I can feel the love from here in B.C from Montreal. Doesn’t suck to be a fan of any team in Canada ( unless you’re a Leafs fan) lol

      Reply
  7. Avatarharold ballard

    No superstar player and my ghost will haunt for years to come.

    Reply
  8. AvatarWake-up Call

    I watched this joke of an NHL organization for 20-some-odd years and finally realized they’ll never get better. Probably because there’s no real urgency to improve since the $$$ rolls in despite icing terrible teams year after year. It’s time for the remaining fans to call it a day with this team and find something better, more rewarding to waste time on.

    Reply
    • AvatarAnonymous

      Like the Detroit Red Wings…that is a much better thing. They have been good longer than the leafs were bad.

      Reply
  9. Avatarsavage fan

    Thank you for your post. As a recent newcomer to Toronto, ex-Montrealer and Habs fan I can only feel sorry for Leaf fans. The reality is that it is extremely difficult to produce a winning hockey team in the NHL. It must come from the TOP. Unfortunately, the owners of the Leafs don’t care about winning, nor do they care about hockey; they care about return on investment. MLSE is a company run by technocrats, not hockey men. Most successful teams have a person or family who drive the team and its development. (Montreal, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, St-Louis, …) Toronto will never win anything with its ownership.

    Reply
  10. AvatarAnonymous

    Greedy wormy cocksucking parasites AKA The Maple Leafs franchise shot callers don’t give a flying fuck about anything but money. Win Lose doesnt matter as long as we support our countries inhabitants and pride getting raped by the most lucrative and financially secured franchise in the NHL , nothings gonna change, Its depressing and sad that this beautiful country is being shit on by a bunch of money grubbing pieces of shit who have the stones to call themselves proud Canadians. Pride comes before anything else especially money and greed

    Reply
  11. You missed something. The real reason the Laffs will never win another cup. The Dave Keon Curse.
    You know about that? If you’re a true Leafs masochist, you should.
    After Captain Dave Keon helped lead the Leafs to 4 Cups in the 60’s and won the Conn Smythe Award in ’67, he was rewarded with being blackballed by Leafs ownership (guess who) for requesting a reasonable raise or trade. Keon got his revenge by paying a gypsy to put an eternal curse on the Leafs. That was the fall of 1967, or so the story goes… Wonder if Shanahan’s ever heard that one…

    Reply
  12. they are too comfortable and getting their profit for free regardless results. Therefore, they have no hope winning a cup in a cap based system.

    Reply
  13. The hell with the modern nhl,egos and big money. I like Wisconsin Badgers and college hockey or maybe Milwaukee Admirals and the AHL. I still get my kicks but for cheaper and less bullshit.

    Reply
  14. I think the ownership is the issue as someone else posted most successful winning teams are owned by a person or family not a huge investment company Get ride of the ownership and then maybe win a cup as a real team not a business venture

    Reply

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