Sshhhh – hear that? It’s the cash-register-like sound of what some refer to as “God’s team” – the Toronto Maple Leafs – bringing their deep pockets and shallow modern-day resume into Edmonton for their first game in Northern Alberta in a couple years.
Now, while you clean up the coffee you just blew out your nose, let me clarify: as somebody born and raised in Canada’s most detested town (no, not Calgary), I’m well aware how laughable it is to think any deity would align their omnipotent self with a franchise that set new standards for incompetence over the last four decades.
Indeed, this is a team that could’ve signed Wayne Gretzky in the twilight of his career, but decided against it because they believed he wanted too much money. If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the history of Leafs ownership’s twisted priorities, I don’t know what could.
But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to like about the 2008-09 Leafs team. In fact, despite the low expectations assigned to them this year – or perhaps because of them – Toronto’s patchwork squad has managed not only to endear themselves to the locals, but also to a few traditional Leafs haters. Here’s a few reasons why:
1. The Absence of Malice. When Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher performed surgery on the roster last summer, he excised two players (Darcy Tucker and Bryan McCabe) whose on-ice moaning made them hugely unpopular in many circles. Sure, they added notorious blindside artist Ryan Hollweg in the off-season, but he could be suspended at any second.
2. The comedy stylings of Ron Wilson. Toronto’s new coach is a fan of funnyman Will Ferrell, and it shows in some of Wilson’s chats with the media. Asked if it made sense to have a second NHL team in Toronto, Wilson said, “If we could split the media up, then yeah. We could send half of you to the fictitious second team.”
3. Because They’re Going To Lose A Lot. It’s always harder to boo a team that isn’t going to win anything but possibly the draft lottery, right? Right?
This column also appears in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.
Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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