With the lockout killing our creativity (especially mine) over the last while, I figured I’d open the floor to another discussion piece. The question this time being: Is there a team in the NHL as funky as the Leafs? And I don’t mean like, good funky, either.
We’ve heard on many occasions that the Maple Leafs are a team without identity. We’ve heard that Phil Kessel doesn’t have a backbone and the team is made up of a bunch of misfits. We’ve written about Burke turning a blind eye to goaltending and remaining on a mission to load up on a hundred defencemen. And recently it’s been the news surrounding Francois Allaire that’s had us in "what the hell?" mode.
Are the Leafs the most dysfunctional team in the NHL? Unlikely. Are they the weirdest? Probably. Going in to this season*, are they one of the most unpredictable? I’d say yes.
I don’t think the Leafs will be good, but I have no idea how bad they’ll turn out. A lot hinges on their goaltending, but they’ve also got a bizarre setup on the blueline and haven’t figured out what to do with Cody Franson.
There’s always something to give this team heat for.
Controversy seems to follow the Leafs due to their insane popularity, and it’s compounded when they’re awful, which has been the last decade.
Even when the Leafs do something good, it’s a bit strange. The trade for James van Riemsdyk, which didn’t really benefit the Flyers much at all, seemed to be in the works for years. It’s like we collectively agreed JvR should be a Leaf, and then it actually happened. The Leafs are weird even when they’re predictable, if that even makes sense.
For a team that’s been outside the playoffs since I was in high school, though, much of the buzz the Leafs have created has been negative. Will it continue that way? With this team, it’s tough to say. Cheering for the Leafs is like being trapped in a Hitchcock movie.
Who had the biggest late season collapse in recent memory? The Leafs.
Who won arguably one of the most exciting games since the lockout, only to see their dreams crushed by Wade Dubielewicz a day later? The Leafs.
Who fired their coach, then publicly said it was in part because fans ran him out of the building? You guessed it.
Who publicly smears one of their top prospects fairly regularly? The same team that sees a traded pick turn in to Tyler Seguin. The ridiculous stories write themselves over and over.
And this isn’t necessarily an all-out knock on the team. They do a lot of dumb shit no doubt, but much of this is out of their control.
Every team experiences ups and downs, though I’m not sure there’s one that can equal the Leafs in terms of being a league laughingstock and churning out weird storylines. The Habs and Oilers perhaps, but at least they haven’t been a mess for eight full years.
We spend a lot of time saying the Leafs are bad. The Leafs are strange.
Is there a team that beats them for top spot in that regard?