NHL Toronto Maple Leafs

Dear Leafs fans: Breathe

That’s all you need to do.

Before the final buzzer had gone, Jake Gardiner had been chastised, (I admittedly also wrote a few pointed words), and for all intents and purposes been banished from Leaf land.

Willy Nylander is bait for a top pair defenseman, Auston Matthews is an ineffective playoff performer, Freddy Andersen was no longer the tender receiving a chorus of ‘Freddy’s’ just one game earlier.

The sweat had not yet dried on their equipment, and Coach Babcock, also once praised, had ruined his relationship with the Leafs saviour and he was being shipped back to Arizona where he came from.

Does this sound familiar? Ah, yes of course. It’s the signal that Spring has arrived in Toronto, and befitting with the late round of winter we’ve had, has kept up the routine.

The Toronto media and fan-base has no off-season when it comes to hockey. Every move, every meal, is critiqued, and most wear it as a badge of honour. “The media here is so crazy, right? We’re so hard and tough on players I hope they’re ready for it!” Do any of these people realize that hey, it’s not a great thing to have that reputation? It’s one thing for outsiders to say ‘yikes it’s there’, but for the people asking the questions in the locker room to be doing it it’s a little too… what’s the word…uncouth? I’ll go with that.

This has been said too many times for me to feel good about repeating it, but pain is coming. I’d say it’s here and has been for over a year. But that’s what we were to expect, no? Speedbumps? Yes, plenty of them.

Leafs fans would like results similar to what the Blackhawks and Penguins had/have; sustained success and perennial playoff contenders. I think it’s fair to say every fan base would like to support a team that wins. But do we realize HOW bad the Penguins and Blackhawks were before actually reaching the pinnacle?

The Penguins were bad enough to get one 1st overall pick for M.A. Fleury, a 2nd overall for Malkin, (could have been Ovechkin), and we all know their captain. Yes, won through a lottery but it still counts. Pittsburgh barely had a building.

Chicago, they were an original six team who couldn’t draw a crowd and didn’t have their games on television. Need I say more?

What have Leaf fans had to endure? Leaving out the whole ‘since 67’ thing and focusing on our team we have right now, not much. Even in the past years, the Buds have made multiple playoff runs with a ton of excitement.

Nazem Kadri, drafted 2009, and is now just becoming the player he was drafted to be.

Morgan Rielly, drafted 2012, was actually in (borderline) Norris conversation for the first time.

Willy Nylander, drafted 2014, played first two full NHL seasons reaching 60+ points in each. 6th in Calder voting

Mitch Marner, drafted 2015, two NHL seasons reaching 60+ points in each. 5th in Calder Voting

Auston Matthews, drafted 2016, 74 goals in first two seasons, 60+ points in each. Won Calder trophy.

Looks pretty good to me. I’d take that over any other team in the NHL.

Do the Leafs have their issues? Absolutely. But what people fail to realize is that even the Champions at the end of the season have their issues. No team is perfect, and that’s why you hear, every year ‘they worked hard and things went their way’.

I use stats only to show you who these players that we have are, and what they’re capable of. We’ve all watched them all season, and how happy they’ve made all the fans. Don’t turn on them when they’re at their lowest.

Relationships in life are special things. They’re supportive, exciting, loving, and they work together. Good ones have those feelings go both ways, unconditionally. How sweet would it be for the team and fans be together in looking out at the rest of the NHL and, together, saying ‘we told you so’ while parading down Bay? (Yes I’ve planned it).

Together.

What unreasonable fans, and mostly the media in Toronto, are at risk of, is becoming part of the enemy. More of a hindrance than help. Why would a collection of humans who feel the need to shield themselves from their own fan-base also want to take a puck to the face for them? Instead of pushing the team under the bus at every corner, be a help. Be a supportive partner. There’s a reason why Patrick Marleau is the first high-profile free agent to come to Toronto, and he did it at the end of his career.

Don’t become part of the enemy. Do not ruin a good thing.

Think about how Phil feels, and don’t be the person in Toronto he’s thinking about when he shoves his 2 rings in their face. We’re better than that.

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