Vesuvius, Krakatoa, St. Helens and Leafs Nation. See a connection? Like Horseshack from Welcome Back Kotter….. Oh! Oh! Oh! The first three are known for volcanic eruptions. The fourth one should be officially joining that group anytime now.
Driving into work yesterday I was listening to my usual sports talk radio station and realized that Leafs fans were at a critical point in their observations about their favourite NHL club. Over the last few days actually I have been noticing the phone calls from Leafs fans were becoming more and more negative about the Leafs, building if you will. The almost predictable negativity among Leafs fans really began to escalate after last weekend when the Leafs lost their third game in a row. It wasn’t just a normal loss. It was a bad one, to the Montreal Canadiens. A 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the most hated rival in the history of Leafs Nation. It was embarrassing. Like a volcano, the pressure in Leafs Nation began to build at an alarming rate. Following that loss was another defeat at the hands of the Calgary Flames. Which was also quite an embarrassing loss, 5-1 to an inferior team, inferior at least as far as the standings were concerned. The following night, the Leafs struggled to beat a young Edmonton Oilers team in overtime. Similar to the Flames, the Oilers were further down the standings than the Leafs and should not have provided the challenge they did to the Leafs. The pressure in Leafs Nation was ratcheting up quickly after those two games. The next game was Saturday night, a game against one of the top teams in the league – the Vancouver Canucks. Leafs Nation was nervous heading into this game, and with the Canucks being regarded as a top team in the NHL, Leafs Nation didn’t seem to be expecting a win. The Nation however, was at least expecting a decent showing from the Leafs. Unfortunately for Leafs Nation, the Canucks game wasn’t even close. The Canucks easily beat the Leafs 6-1. The Maple Leafs were beaten soundly. Smoke was now billowing from the volcano that is Leafs Nation, there were loud rumblings emanating from the earth, obvious signs that an eruption was imminent. The Maple Leafs didn’t play again until Tuesday. Two days for Leafs Nation to rant, and rant they did, louder and louder and louder. The tweets, texts, emails and phone calls were becoming more and more anxious and desperate sounding. Ash was beginning to fall around the Greater Toronto Area. Last night the Maple Leafs took to the ice and lost again, this time to the New Jersey Devils. It was not a good loss. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson allowed some bad goals, again. The overtime winner was terrible, I am still shaking my head trying to figure out what Gustavsson was doing. Dion Phaneuf was beaten badly to the puck on a rebound which resulted in an earlier Devils goal. I was watching the debacle and could feel the earth below me beginning to shake and shimmy. And it wasn’t a truck passing by outside. It was a sign, a sign that something was about to blow. As I was driving home from work, I was seriously considering not listening to the radio station on the way in to work on Wednesday. I don’t know that I can take the explosion of Leafs Nation, ranting about the same problems. Ron Wilson is a bad coach, Brian Burke should be fired, Gustavsson and Reimer are bad goaltenders, Phaneuf is not a good defenceman, the team needs a real #1 centre, the team needs to acquire Rick Nash, Steven Stamkos, Milan Lucic and Ryan Miller without any thought of what it would actually take to acquire superstars like these. It is never ending with Leafs Nation. It is repetitive to say the least, boringly and annoyingly repetitive. This happens several times a year with the same bunch of fans within Leafs Nation. When the team is winning, they are on cloud nine and the Leafs are the best team in the NHL. When the team goes through a bad stretch, as a mediocre team will do, the world is at an end for these fans. These would be the same Leafs fans who a few weeks ago, when the Leafs were playing well, were talking about actually getting to the more favourable #6 seed in the Eastern Conference, about Gustavsson finally arriving, about the evolution of Dion Phaneuf, how great the young, defensive depth was, how most teams in the league could not match the Leafs top two lines of Kessel-Bozak-Lupul and Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur. There was little-to-no mention of Ron Wilson, which is a sure sign the Leafs are playing well. Brian Burke was receiving praise for his skills as a general manager. Currently though, the Leafs are in a bad stretch and Leafs Nation is ready to blow its top like so many times before. It is these fans that give the rest of Leafs Nation a bad name across NHL fandom. It is because of these fans that the Leafs are the most hated team in the NHL. It is these fans that continually forget what the real experts were predicting for this team before the season began. Most of those real experts were predicting the Leafs might be a playoff team. Let me say that again…might be a playoff team. The Leafs ‘might’ make the playoffs, if Reimer or Gustavsson played well, if the top line produced all season, if the second line of Kulemin-Grabovsky-MacArthur could repeat last season’s performance, if Phaneuf could bounce back, if some of the younger players would finally catch on with the big club (paging Dr. Kadri….paging Dr. Kadri).
Well folks, where are the Leafs right now? The Leafs are competing for a playoff spot, just like all those experts predicted at the start of the season. Somehow, somewhere that overly vocal, whiney part of Leafs Nation got it in their collective minds that this edition of the Leafs was a lock for the playoffs. And now the world is caving in because the Leafs are going through a bad stretch. What a surprise. I’m sure I could sell this bunch some swamp land in Florida. Personally I’m hoping Leafs Nation does blow its top like never before, KA-BLAMMO!!! Maybe some of these overly-dramatic fans in Leafs Nation will get blown far and clear of the rest of us. Maybe the blast will catch some of those Habs & Sens fans as well! Now that was a cheap shot, but when it comes to the Habs and Sens, who cares. Back to Leafs Nation, as I’m sure they are concerned that I have left them for this long already. It’s a long season folks and this franchise has seen worse times (hello Harold Ballard years!) and survived. It is really too bad these fans cannot enjoy a playoff race for what it is. Or that they don’t have the patience to realize how gratifying it can be to watch a good team being constructed over a few years. And yes, I’m well aware the Leafs last won a cup in 1967, I’ve heard that enough from Habs fans. In the end, I am dreading listening to the all those annoying Leafs fans today. Maybe for today’s foray into work, I’ll bring some cd’s with me. Although I don’t know if that will be enough to completely avoid the lava flow coming from the volcano that is Leafs Nation.
That’s all for now kids, to quote the great Les Nessman, “Good night and may the good news be yours.” See ya.