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How to fix the Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs are 5-7-3 and have lost seven games in a row. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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The Maple Leafs are 5-7-3 and have lost seven games in a row. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Belated best wishes to all military personnel who serve and reflect the best qualities of their citizenry. Let’s move right to your questions:

Happy Movember, Adam. I can't help noticing that my Maple Leafs are on their way to another mediocre season, with a low playoff spot as the best-case scenario and another bottom-10 finish with no draft pick as a real possibility.

What bothers me most is that the Leafs seem to have so few assets and so little to build on, that they could just spin their wheels for another 10 years or so and not accomplish much of anything. So is there any hope that Brian Burke could turn this team into a contender? How could he do it? And if you were the Leafs GM, what would you do with the team?
Josh Price, Toronto


First of all, although I’m a supporter of Movember, genetics has denied my 38-year-old face the ability to grow a moustache. What do we call this month for guys like me – No-Mo-vember?

Actually, No-mo-vember sounds like an appropriate plea from the Leafs this month. Funny how sometimes the opinions of most people – in this case, that the Leafs would struggle to muster much offense – have turned out to be true. People can malign Leafs fans all they want, but those long-suffering folks have a good grasp of the game.

Most of my thoughts on the Leafs’ struggles can be found here. I would have gone the safer route of a longer, from-the-ground-up rebuild and told fans, season-ticket holders and corporate sponsors to be patient (as if they’d have any other choice).
 
When you’re a born gambler like Burke is, sometimes those bets pay off in a big way and your philosophy is validated. But as we see and hear virtually every day, the Toronto market is in no psychological condition to gamble. Squirrelly ain’t the half of it.

Adam, I was the coach who picked Cammi Granato to play on my bantam boys team in 1983. We went to Buffalo and were scheduled to play a team from Canada. The coach from Canada wanted me to sit Cammi, because Canada had very strict rules against boys playing girls.

I told Cammi, “Your parents brought you all this way and I am not going to sit you because of Canada's macho rules.” The other coach said, "we can't play you, because they will ban us from provincial playoffs." I told him that was his problem and we'd take a forfeit. He made some calls (on pay phones back then) and finally got permission to play us.

We beat them and Cammi had a hat trick! I went to sign the scoresheet with him after the game and I couldn't resist saying, "Now I know why you didn't want the girl to play." He was steamed, while I stifled a laugh. I got a lot of crap from some of the parents of the boys who didn't make that team, but they have been silenced.
Greg Lopatka, Downers Grove, Ill.


Greg,

I’m waiving my mandatory question rule for this submission because I love the story and wanted to share – and also because I think it illustrates how the passage of time always seems to make hockey’s conservative old guard look so foolish in retrospect.

I mean, leaf through someone’s ancient editions of The Hockey News sometime and see what players, coaches, GMs and hockey’s gatekeepers said about helmets, half-visors and many other aspects of the game we now take for granted. It really is laughable how alarmist – and wrong – they were.

And I’d bet the same will be true decades from now when people look back and try to figure out why half of a sport’s potential participatory base was needlessly marginalized and picked apart, rather than accepted and nurtured. That will seem 1,000 times more ludicrous than it is today.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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