Does a Toronto Maple Leafs team loading up on veteran players, like Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton, indicate young leadership problems in the Toronto dressing room?
Obviously, it’s a time-honored media tradition in Toronto to hammer the Maple Leafs for anything and everything. It’s a pretty similar dynamic as it was with the Red Sox in Boston pre-2004 World Series title, and let’s face it: Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Co. haven’t really done a lot to disprove anything with a slew of first round playoff disappointments in their recent past.
But this Maple Leafs hockey club isn’t even the worst leadership group we’ve seen in the last 10 years of Toronto Maple Leafs teams. Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel and that group in 2013 will go down as a petulant group of Toronto underachievers that ended their weak run with Maple Leafs fans throwing jerseys on the ice in disgust.
We haven’t seen anything quite that ugly in Toronto with this group full of promise.
This is still a very young group figuring it out, working through some defensive issues and unfortunately full of young players that got paid before they actually won anything on the ice. There is a possibility, of course, that things will end up snapping into focus for Matthews and Marner. Perhaps they will eventually have their time in the sun while bringing Toronto the Stanley Cup they’ve been sadly without for over 50 years.
Steve Simmons came flying off the top turnbuckle against the Maple Leafs over the weekend theorizing that they needed to sign Jumbo Joe and retain Spezza based on deficiencies within the current Toronto leadership group.
Is that fair and accurate?
It’s hard to say given that both Spezza and Thornton haven’t really won anything in their NHL careers when it comes to the Stanley Cup. Sometimes it’s more about older NHL veterans getting a chance to play in Toronto at the end of their NHL careers, and sometimes it’s about a dream of being on the team that will eventually break through for the Maple Leafs.
Either way, Simmons once again has people talking about his take and that’s a credit to him given his job description. Now on to the rest of the hockey links:
*Interesting column from Larry Brooks on the plight of veteran minor league hockey players getting hit hard by the uncertainty of COVID-19 on the AHL for this coming season. Tough times for everybody right now.
*Interesting piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) and Pittsburgh Hockey Now compatriot Dan Kingerski about the history of Sidney Crosby trading cards, including one that’s worth over $100,000. That’s a lot of cheddar up in Nova Scotia.
*I didn’t get a chance to write much about the legendary Doc Emrick on Tuesday as he announced his retirement from the play-by-pay booth. Needless to say it was an honor to be a friend, colleague and co-worker with Doc. He was a gem both inside and outside the broadcast booth, and his friendly, passionate voice will be missed on the NHL telecasts. Here’s a great piece on NPR from years ago about the 153 verbs that Emrick employs during broadcasts, with “waffleboarded away!” among my favorites.
*It sounds like the Edmonton Oilers are pursuing contract extension with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It will be interesting to see how much the Nuge ends up signing for as a lesser-discussed important piece for the Edmonton Oilers.
*Chicago Blackhawks ownership sent out a message to their fans on Tuesday spelling out that the Hawks are going to rebuild their team. It will be interesting to see if both Jonathan Toews and Pat Kane see this through over the next couple of years.
*For something completely different: Apparently listening to a mash-up of the Ghostbusters theme song and the Beastie Boys is life-changing, so we linked to it. Enjoy and thank us later!