You make a commitment to write about the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they make it so damn hard to write about them. What are you supposed to say?
Fortunately, at this point in the season, there’s really nothing left to say anyway.
I could state the obvious – the Leafs need to win every one of their remaining games if they hope to reach the playoffs – or I could state the ultra-obvious – they won’t be making the playoffs.
I could point to the simple mistakes that continue to plague this team – turnovers, poor defensive zone coverage, weak goals – and argue that head coach Randy Carlyle has failed to teach them anything.
I could add that all the hate directed towards James Reimer last week was completely misplaced. Jonathan Bernier has surrendered 12 goals in three games since returning from injury and the Leafs haven’t looked any better with him in net (though he continues to enjoy Carlyle’s confidence, which says what?).
I could say all of this, but none of it would matter. We already know the story on the Leafs: they’re a yearly disappointment. In fact, it would be oddly disappointing if they somehow failed to disappoint us.
I may not know what to say about the Leafs, but if I was the general manager of the team, here’s how I’d go about making my point that their performance this season has been completely unacceptable.
First, I’d call a general team meeting for some time early in the morning, but I’d never go to the meeting myself. Afterwards, I’d send the team a message: “Sorry, guys. I took one from your book: I failed to show up when it really mattered.”
If they need a message, that should deliver one.
Second, I’d take the captaincy away from Dion Phaneuf. I’m not opposed to him regaining the captaincy one day, but this is a special franchise so it naturally requires a special leader. Phaneuf’s not that guy (right now at least). Here I’m thinking of the Matt Sundins, Doug Gilmours, Wendel Clarks and Darryl Sittlers of the hockey world. (No, Phil Kessel isn’t the answer either.)
Finally, I’d heed Riddick Bowe’s advice and knock Carlyle out of the organization. No coach is perfect or can stay forever, but Carlyle has been especially effective at alienating players. Need proof? Look at Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and James Reimer. Two have flourished outside Toronto, one has floundered in Toronto.
To put it in simple terms, Carlyle’s record speaks for itself.
I’m not sure how to address the David Clarkson situation – a situation that falls squarely on the general manager Dave Nonis – but something must be done here as well.
The Leafs haven’t been a truly competitive team since the heydays of the Sundin era and that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the Leafs in recent years. They’re simply not very good.
In other words, check out the Toronto Raptors if you want to see some playoff action this spring.
Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports (especially the Toronto Maple Leafs), politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson