Tag Archives: Toronto Maple Leafs

Losing the Loser Label? That’s Just Boring

By Jay Menard

I’ve realized that I really don’t want the Chicago Cubs to win. After all, if they’re not the lovable losers that we’ve known for over a century, what are they?

Just another team. And that’s nothing special.

It may even be boring. Continue reading

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Winning Isn’t Everything. In Today’s Sports it Amounts to Very Little

By Jason Menard

“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” – Vince Lombardi.

“… I’m not sure people want to see a team at home that has a 9-0 record but the average score is 12-7. I think they’d much rather see us .500 at home with an average score of 38-34.” – Chris Rudge, executive chairman and CEO of the Toronto Argonauts. Continue reading

Ferguson Training Wheels an Accident Waiting to Happen

By Jason Menard

When John Ferguson Jr. was brought in to run the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was brought in as a purported thoroughbred, champing at the bit to burst out of the gates and lead the beleaguered Buds down the home stretch and into the winner’s circle.

Whew… I think I may have exhausted all my equine metaphors. Well, all but this one – if the Leafs bring in John Muckler as a senior advisor, then they’ll have effectively taken that thoroughbred and turned him into a gelding.

Seriously, if the Leafs are that desperate to bring someone into the front office who will be, for all intents and purposes, a glorified baby sitter to the 40-year-old Ferguson, then it’s time to stop riding that dead horse, take off the saddle, and send him to the glue factory.

OK, I promise, no more horse metaphors.

Ferguson burst onto the scene back in 2003 as a 36-year-old wunderkind who was going to free the Leafs from the shackles of the Pat Quinn regime. Where Quinn represented the past and a fear that the game may have passed him by on a managerial level, Ferguson was supposed to represent the future.

Of course, looking back to his past, you could see the future didn’t hold much promise of being bright. After all, he had spent a few years in the St. Louis organization and as vice-president and director of hockey operations for the club he helped make the moves that caused the Blues to miss the playoffs for the first time in 24 years – and have left them as perennial doormats since.

And now one could argue that those same seeds have been planted in Hogtown – and Leafs fans can only hope that the same yield will not be reaped. Unfortunately, there is no time to learn in the top job – you’ve got to hit the ground running. And Ferguson’s shown that when it comes to running, he’s got two left feet – and those shoelaces are tied together.

Signing Pavel Kubina to an overly long and overly expensive deal only exacerbated the fact that he dumped a pile of money into a questionable blueliner in Bryan McCabe. And let’s not forget the third defensive blunder – the handsome three-year deal handed out to lumbering blueliner Hal Gill who continues to collect his millions while the game – and its players – pass him by.

And the worst deal of all? Peddling off all-world netminder Tukka Raask, who is arguably one of the top two goaltending prospects in the world with Carey Price, for a quick fix in Andrew Raycroft. Compounding that error by trying to fix it, Ferguson peddled away more of the club’s future for Vesa Toskala. Sure, there may be an improvement in net, but under the new CBA and salary cap, the first and second-round selections he gave up are worth their weight in gold.

These moves – and a handful of others – show that Ferguson’s not ready for the big time. But what the Leafs are doing by bringing in a senior advisor is simply greasing the skids for JFJ’s exit from the Air Canada Centre.

Not only does Ferguson lose face amongst his peer group – the other NHL general managers, but he suddenly becomes in danger of losing the respect of his coaching staff and players. After all, when the buck no longer stops at Ferguson’s desk, why would anyone respect his word as final?

The Leafs are setting themselves up for inner turmoil of an epic proportion. Does Ferguson have to vet every trade with Muckler? What happens if the senior advisor says no? Is Ferguson allowed to go on his own and veto that opinion, or is he bound to respect those wishes? If a coach doesn’t like Ferguson’s directive, can he go above his head to Muckler and lobby him to advise JFJ of a new change in philosophy?

Toronto thought it was getting a sleek, new-model sports car that was perfect for keeping pace with the new league. If they’ve determined that they’ve bought a lemon, bringing in an old reliable truck won’t make him run any better.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs is ready to take the wheel out of John Ferguson Jr.’s hands, they might as well go all the way and hand the keys to someone new.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Sign of the Times

By Jason Menard

Good for the Air Canada Centre! After all, each of us need to do our part to fight the war on terror and violence, and through their due vigilance they were able to wrest a potentially lethal weapon from the grasp of Brody White.

Of course, Brody’s only 10 years old – but kids today are crafty. Think of the damage he could have done to an unsuspecting usher!

Yes, in yet another example of the old adage that states common sense is not so common, the staff of the Air Canada Centre, under a directive from the powers that be in the NBA and NHL league offices to bring in new security measures, deemed Brody’s hand-made sign a threat to the paying patrons at a recent Toronto Maple Leafs game.

And while the sign may have read “No. 1 Leafs fan” chances are young Brody’s willing to give up that title now.

Increasingly the Five Man Electrical Band’s statement of “signs, signs, everywhere a sign,” is become a quaint reminder of a bygone time. The corporate suits who run the game are flexing their muscle more regularly and sterilizing the sporting environment to the point where blind subservience is becoming a commodity to be bartered for a seat in the nosebleed section.

Look no further down the 401 than Detroit, where the Ford family tried to stifle the fan’s displeasure with the Detroit Lions’ general manager by preventing NFL fans from bringing in signs bearing the message “Fire [Mike] Millen.” While they didn’t go so far as to suggest that carrying a placard was tantamount to brandishing a firearm, they did use the lame excuse of how signs could obstruct the view of the other paying customers.

Oddly enough, I’ve been watching football for years and signage has never been a problem in the past. But in today’s sporting environment, we peons are no longer able to question the powers that be.

Honestly, it’s time for franchises to get a sense of perspective. Sports are an enjoyable diversion in our lives – but they don’t define it. This inflated sense of self is akin to the nauseating spectacle of the increased security measures Hollywood took following the attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre. As if Al Qaeda’s action that caused thousands to lose their lives and one of the world’s architectural icons to tumble wasn’t enough of a statement – damn it, Julia Roberts may be next! And what would the world do without her proficiency in romantic comedies?

I suppose when your sense of the world extends no further than your nose, it’s understandable that you can lose a sense of perspective. But how far is too far? Was ruining the enjoyment of a sporting event for a 10-year-old boy really worth it? Is the negative publicity gleaned from their actions a fair trade for the elimination of such a miniscule threat to public security?

This is not to undermine the legitimate security issues that are out there. One has to only ask Monica Seles whether or not fans can be a threat to athletes. But a sense of perspective must be deployed.

Otherwise why stop at signs? Why not force everyone to drop their car keys into a giant bowl at the gate? I’ve seen Chinatown! I know what those things can do to someone’s nose! What about people with prosthetic limbs? After all, there’s nothing that precludes someone who uses assistive devices from becoming part of a sleeper cell?

Or maybe, just maybe, we should look at 10 year olds as 10 year olds. Maybe sports franchises should be damn thankful that people are willing to shell out their hard-earned money to sit in the seats and announce to the world their love of a team.

So where do we go from here? As fans, do we continue to subject ourselves to the idiocy of overzealous mall cops who patrol our fields of play? Perhaps Toronto fans should make their displeasure known. If exuberance is cause for security concern, then the next NHL game at the Air Canada Centre should be greeted with absolute silence.

If our hands are a dangerous weapon, let’s comply with the intent of the ACC’s restrictive security policies by sitting on them during the game. No applause for the anthem. Greet the arrival of the teams with stone silence. And let the first goal of the game pass with nary a murmur from the fans.

After all, silence can be deafening – and maybe that way the message will get across.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

A Canadiens’ Fan in a Maple Leaf World

By Jason Menard

It’s at this time of year that I can really relate to Kermit T. Frog when he woefully sang, “It’s not easy being green…”

You see, I bleed the blue, blanc, et rouge of the Montreal Canadiens in a Toronto Maple Leafs world. You may not have noticed us, as we tend to gather in small groups, in living rooms with the blinds drawn, to commiserate over the fact that fate has dealt us a geographic blow.

But once in a while you will catch the more intrepid members of our community at your local pub, gathered around what invariably ends up being the smallest TV in the joint, tuned to SRC, watching our beloved Habs take flight. While around us – the flickering glow of the numerous big screens tuned to Hockey Night in Toronto – er, I mean, Canada, illuminate the faces of Maple Leaf fans who sit, or stand, in reverence of the boys in Blue and White.

But look closer at those Canadiens fans and you’ll notice the slight differences between them and their Maple Leaf brethren. They display an air of serenity and poise, but are very careful not to show it.

Some may say that it comes from the hypnotic effect caused by watching Jacques Demers’ inhuman number of chins wiggling during intermission. And while it’s true that we don’t have the pomp and bluster of Don Cherry to wake us from our reverie, the disposition of a Montreal Canadiens fan comes from one thing, and one thing only – success.

Each year Toronto Maple Leafs fans in the area whip them up into a frenzy of anticipation believing that this, finally, will be the year! With every goal for and goal against their mood swings faster than Benny Goodman on amphetamines. And each year they plunge from the euphoric highs of a series win to the inevitable despair that comes with their ouster from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And those Montreal Canadiens fans? We try to suffer our defeats with dignity. But woe is the Habs fan whose allegiances are exposed to this Maple Leaf-dominated world. Like vultures circling a dying carcass, Leaf fans have in recent years feasted on the Canadiens misfortune.

What is that old saying? Oh, yeah, misery loves company. Taking their cues from their spiritual leader, Grapes, Leaf fans have delighted in bombarding their Canadiens-loving cohorts with bravado. Feeling that ridicule combined with volume can fill the void caused by their own lack of post-season glory.

“Theodore couldn’t carry Belfour’s jock strap! Our Swedish captain is totally better than your Finnish captain! Domi would have kicked Ribeiro’s butt if he tried that diving trick on the Leafs!”

And yet that wry smile never leaves the lips of the Canadiens’ fan. Like an internal mantra, the Habs fan takes solace with thoughts of the great Russ Courtnall for John Kordic trade, the Harold Ballard years, the Maple Laffs moniker…

But most of all, the Habs fan finds comfort in the Cups. We draw our strength from generations of success. While Leafs fans hold fast to the thought that “if the refs only called a penalty on Wayne Gretzky…” and what might have been, Canadiens fans can take comfort in countless memories of sipping from Lord Stanley’s mug.

Sure the recent years have been lean, which is what makes this year’s playoffs all the more exciting. So go ahead and fly your flags from your car, flood the street in celebration of a first-round win, shout from the top of your lungs that this is THE year! We Habs fans will smile in bemusement at your desperate need for success and validation.

So as we enter the second round, and as the Maple Leaf bandwagon groans under the weight of ever-more people jumping on as it lumbers along to another early tee time, we Canadiens fans will simply enjoy watching you take that ride. Early-round success? We’ve been there and done that. Wake us when the parade’s being planned.

And if all else fails, we can always fall back on the line: “At least we’ve won our Cups on colour TV…”

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved