Normally seeing this parked right in front of my house all day would prompt me to think mean thoughts relating to the amount of air in the tires, or the number of eggs that I could bounce off the windshield from my front door, however… Considering the state of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who can argue with supporting a Canadian hockey team even if it IS the dreaded Montreal Canadiens.
ESPN The Magazine has released its “Ultimate Standings” for 2014, ranking sports franchises in Major League Baseball (MLB), The National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL) according to a variety of categories and in a couple of them, the Toronto Maple Leafs ranked dead last at 122, and fared poorly in most of the rest of them. Great.
To come up with these rankings, ESPN took the following steps:
First: Consulting firm Maddock Douglas surveyed 1,002 North American fans to form 25 criteria for what you want most in return for the emotion, money and time you invest in the 122 MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams.
Second: Teaming with NetReflector, an opinion research firm, ESPN.com asked fans to rate their home teams in each area and more than 101,000 did. They grouped grades into the categories listed below.
Third: In order to determine the “Bank for the Buck” calculation, ESPN.com used calculations developed with Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center to figure how well teams turn fans’ money into wins. Then they combined each team’s score across all categories into a weighted average.
The Categories, plus the highest ranked team and the lowest ranked team.
Price of tickets, parking and concessions
1. Memphis Grizzlies (NBA)
122. Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Strength of on-field leadership
1. San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
122. Florida Panthers (NHL)
Courtesy by players, coaches and front offices toward fans, and how well a team uses technology to reach them
1. San Antonio Spurs
122. New York Knicks
Honesty; loyalty to core players and the community
1. San Antonio Spurs
122. Florida Marlins (MLB)
Effort on the field, likability off it
1. San Antonio Spurs
122. NY Knicks
Quality of venue; fan-friendliness of environment; frequency of game-day promotions
1. San Francisco Giants (MLB)
122. NY Islanders (NHL)
Bang for the Buck
Wins in the past year, per fan dollars
1. Indiana Pacers (NBA)
122. Toronto Maple Leafs
Championships won or expected within the lifetime of current fans
1. St. Louis Cardinals (MLB)
122. Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA)
A review of the ESPN website revealed that The Leafs fared poorly in every category. They placed last in both bang for the buck and affordability; second-last in title track; in the bottom 10 in fan relations, players and coaching; and 105th and 109th in ownership and stadium experience, respectively.
Possibly because this was done by ESPN and the majority of the respondents came from the US, all Canadian teams fared poorly in their rankings with the exception of the Montreal Canadians who appeared in the top half of the list. Here are the rest of the seven teams’ rankings at 55 out of 122.
The other Canadian teams ranked as follows;
Toronto Raptors – 74
Toronto Blue Jays – 81
Calgary Flames — 89
Ottawa Senators — 92
Winnipeg Jets — 97
Vancouver Canucks — 112
Edmonton Oilers — 115
The last 2 teams were the New York Knicks at 121 and the Toronto Maple Leafs at 122.
At least at last there is nowhere to go but up. At 121, the Knicks could drop.
You have probably heard by now that New Jersey Devils superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL 3 years into a 17-year, $102 million dollar contract, having received $23 million in salary – leaving $77 million on the table. He went back home, to Russia, and is expected to sign with the KHL right away.
Turns out he loved playing in Russia so much during that ridiculous NHL lockout that he felt homesick upon his return. Well done, NHL/PA.
What you may not know and is impressive if you toss it into a conversation with someone, is that the Devils paid quite a price for Kovalchuk. First, they traded Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, a 2nd-round pick and a 1st-round to the then Atlanta Thrashers for him at the 2010 trade deadline (The Devils did receive a 2nd-round pick and Anssi Salmela from the Thrashers at that time).
When Kovalchuk’s contract expired at the end of the 2009-2010 season, the Devils re-signed him to a 17-year $102 million contract which the league rejected because it was back-loaded and circumvented the NHL’s salary cap. Then the NHL amended its Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to disallow other organizations from utilizing this loophole. The NHL punished the Devils who were forced to forfeit $3 million, a 3rd-round draft pick and a 1st-round draft pick.
So let’s do the math: The Devils invested: Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, a 2nd-round pick, two 1st-round picks, a 3rd-round pick, a $3 million fine, $23 million in salary and got in a large fight with Gary Bettman and the NHL over this.
It’s safe to say that this list was not worth it, considering that Kovalchuk retired with 12 years and $77 million remaining on his contract.
The Devils will now have a lot of salary cap space but if they knew this, would they have let forward David Clarkson become an unrestricted free agent? Clarkson was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs a few days ago at the start of the free agent signing season. So now the Devils have to find 2 premier players instead of just one.
The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, must have felt a little nervous when signing Clarkson from the Devils given the fact that Scott Neidermayer was elected to the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame this week.
How do the 2 relate, you might be asking?
Well, the Leafs known for terrible trades and horrible drafting have made some pretty sketchy decisions, since 1967’s expansion, such as; sending Lanny McDonald to Colorado or Owen Nolan from San Jose, or trading goalie Tuukka Rask and keeping Justin Pogge, while getting Andrew Raycroft in return, or trading 2 high draft picks Vesa Toskala in 2007, but the one that hurts the most, in my opinion is this one.
On October 16th, 1989 the Toronto Maple Leafs traded their 1st round draft pick in the 1991 NHL entry draft to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Tom Kurvers. That pick turned out to be Scott Neidermayer.
The Maple Leafs were a terrible team and with the recent addition of Europeans were easy to play against in the rough, tough Norris division. The coach, John Brophy, known for being tough himself insisted the team get tougher and that began with the laughable trade of speedy centre Russ Courtnal to the Montreal Canadiens for goon John Kordic (whom I met on the Toronto subway on the way to Wrestlemania 6 at the SkyDome. Kordic since died from an overdose)
Known for being a coaching carousel, the Leafs fired Broph after a 10 game winless streak and replaced him with Leaf legend and former captain George Armstrong – which didn’t matter with a terrible team as the Leafs finished last in the Norris division.
Over the summer, GM Stellick was fired, and Armstrong was not asked to return. Instead, the Leafs promoted their chief scout Floyd Smith to be the GM and they hired former New Jersey coach Doug Carpenter to run the team.
With Borje Salming and Chris Kotsopoulos leaving TO to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, and defenseman Rick Lanz deciding to play in Switzerland instead of Toronto, the team needed to add blueliners so they began with Rob Ramage, Al Iafrate, and they pushed along some young but unproven defensemen in Luke Richardson and Todd Gill. The Leafs also added Brad (no helmet, can’t skate) Marsh and tough guy Brian Curran – whom I remember as always having a broken jaw from fighting. Coach Carpenter knew the Devils well, and pointed to Tom Kurvers, who had already moved from the Canadiens to the Sabres and on to the Devils where as an offensive defenseman, managed 34 points during the 1987-88 season and 15 points in the playoffs. The following year, Kurvers lead the Devils in points from the defense with 16 goals and 50 assists.
So after losing 4 of their first 5 games in the 1989-90 season the Leafs and Devils agreed on a trade with the Leafs getting Kurvers and the Devils getting the Leafs 1st round draft pick in the 1991 entry draft.
Kurvers finished second to Iafrate in defensive scoring that year with 15 goals and 37 assists, helping the Leafs make the playoffs and finish 3rd in the Norris Division, however, the Leafs lost to the St. Louis Blues in 5 games – if you are around my age you will remember the Sergio Momesso slapshot from just past centre ice that goalie Alan Bester let in. That deflated the team and they were done in the series.
Toronto returned for the 1990-91 season with virtually the same roster, except Bester, who was demoted to Newmarket and was replaced by rookie Peter Ing. Unfortunately, the success of the previous season did not repeat itself. The Leafs again fell flat early in the season, going winless in the first seven games. After a win over Chicago, they lost another three games in a row and Carpenter was fired and replaced by former Vancouver and Winnipeg coach Tom Watt.
Watt was unable to pull Toronto out of their crash dive and by early November, the club was 2-15-1 and well on their way to finishing dead last in the league, which would have allowed them to draft the top prospect that year which was Oshawa General centre Eric Lindros. But with that debacle looming, panic set in and GM Smith traded over half the Leaf roster to avoid finishing dead last. Some of those trades included;
November 9, 1990 – Leafs trade John McIntyre to Los Angeles for Mike Krushelnyski
November 9, 1990 – Leafs trade Steve Bancroft (former 1st rounder) to Boston for Rob Cimetta
November 10, 1990 – Leafs trade Ed Olczyk and Mark Osborne to Winnipeg for Dave Ellett and Paul Fenton
November 17, 1990 – Leafs trade Scott Pearson (former 1st rounder) and their 1991 and 1992 second round picks to Quebec for Michel Petit, Lucien Deblois and Aaron Broten
December 17, 1990 – Leafs trade Lou Franceschetti and Brian Curran To Buffalo for Mike Foligno
In the end, the Leafs finished 11 points behind Quebec, with a 23-46-11 record, meaning Quebec drafted first (no draft lottery yet), while the expansion San Jose Sharks received the 2nd overall pick. The New JerseyDevils drafted 3rd with the Leafs pick from the Kurvers trade.
So what about Kurvers? Well he too was shipped out of Toronto, to the Vancouver Canucks for center Brian Bradley. Kurvers was traded at the end of that season to the New York Islanders, where he averaged over 40 points a season in his final three NHL seasons before he retired.
Niedermayer became the only player to win a Memorial Cup, World Junior Championship, IIHF World Championship, Olympic gold medal, Stanley Cup and the World Cup. He won the Norris Trophy for the best defenseman in the league in 2004, as well as helping the Devils win 3 Stanley Cups(1995, 2000 & 2003) and the Anaheim Ducks win one in 2007. He also won 2 Olympic Gold Medals for Canada in 2002 and 2010.
So while I wish Kovalchuk success in Russia, and Neidermayer congratulations for being elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, I also feel a little frustrated knowing he could have been a Leaf.
Of course my Maple Leaf cynicism also has me doubting that the team would have developed him in the manner the Devils did, or that he would have had a player with the skill set of Scott Stevens to help him along.
Or maybe, the Leafs don’t panic and pick up Kurvers and instead draft Eric Lindros 1st overall…
Sigh. Say what you will New Jersey, but being a Toronto sports fan sucks!
- Kovalchuk shocks Devils with retirement decision (cbssports.com)
- Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk announces retirement (tracking.si.com)
- PHT Morning Skate: Wendel Clark thinks highly of Clarkson (prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com)
- Sucks To Be A Devil Fan Today: Kovalchuk Retires Outta NOWHERE. (beerleaguebeauts.com)
- Kovalchuk Announces Retirement Leaving the Devils Scrambling (newyorksportsbanter.com)
There is always cause for concern when a marriage of unlikely partners takes place and when Bell and Rogers took the plunge to jointly purchase Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), speculation was rampant about how these two rivals were going to be able to work together to build winning sports franchises.
Well, if the news Wednesday was any indication, then either they have no issues working together or they have just picked the low-hanging fruit to test their ability to get things done, when it was announced that the Toronto Maple Leafs radio colour analyst, Jim Ralph, was relieved of his duties after 16-years with the Leafs.
Ralph actually tweeted his release @Jim_Ralph when he joked that his dismissal was “jointly done by my new step parents (Bell and Rogers, owners of MLSE). Take pride being first guy fired by TSN and The Fan on same day.”
Ralph also tweeted that, “For the record, my firing was due to changes in my department. Nothing personal. I was just the only one in the department.”
Ralph, known for his quick wit and unique sense of humour was a former NHL draft-pick of the Chicago Black Hawks, however after a serious knee injury and if I can recall correctly, many stories about his coaches wanting him to stop the puck more, he moved to broadcasting and worked 16 years and 1,196 straight games.
At first it was hard getting just to his joking on the radio, but as the Leafs got worse and worse, his humour actually made the broadcasts fun and I recall many a game where I would break into laughter listening to Ralph and long-time Leafs play-by-play announcer Joe Bowen work their magic together. It seemed the longer Bowen worked with Ralph, the funnier he got too.
It what I would describe as a typical Ralph way, he commented; “I don’t harbour an ounce of bitterness,” he said in a later tweet. “I’m not the first to go through it. Others have had it worse.”
So with this announcement I hope that “Ralphy” gets back on his feet quickly but only in a role that would suit him best. He needs to be able to use his extensive hockey-knowledge and his sense of humour to do what he likes doing best… Talk.
How does this make you feel as a Leafs fan or a listener of Leafs broadcasts?
Was this done because of the impending move from AM640 to Fan590 and Team1050 for Leafs broadcasts?
I made a pledge to not support the NHL or NHLPA this year in protest of another stupid, waste of time, work stoppage. I even toyed with the idea of burning a hockey jersey a week until the league and it’s players came to their senses but apparently my wife told me I could get fined for burning a jersey in the middle of my street.
So when the lockout ended, I settled in for another mediocre season from the Toronto Maple Leafs who had no NHL calibre goaltender, no centre for Phil Kessel and still a lot of average players on a very sucky roster which looked more like Team USA than a team in Ontario. I thought the dream of every Ontario boy was to wear the maple leaf on his chest? I guess when you put out an inferior product for so many years the team becomes a winning team, and from the number of American players on the team, how many dreamed of playing for the blue and white? My thoughts too. Probably none.
So today, the Toronto Maple Leafs took a HUGE step in the right direction by firing GM Brian Burke. Possibly with the pending trade for goalie Roberto Luongo, or after Burkie signed Ontarian Jay McClement (who?) to play centre, the teams board of directors had enough.
Under Burke’s watch, the Leaf’s accomplished this;
No playoffs since 2004.
No clean plan on how to get there – when the chance came to tank it for a high pick, they went on a winning streak.
Lots of promises – nothing to show for it.
Burke did land Dion Phaneuf in a seven-player deal with Calgary in 2010, who was the team’s captain but many speculate it was Burke who selected him as captain and not the players.
Leaf’s fans will shake their heads at Burke’s 2009 deal with Boston, when he acquired sniper Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection who turned out to be star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
Burke let players go for nothing and his loyalty cost the team when he added an extra year to coach Ron Wilson’s contract just before he fired him and his love of dipping into his previous employer, the Ducks, for their players.
The biggest problem I had with Burke’s philosophy was his pledge to have a truculent team who were tough to play against and then he proceeded to stock the team full of skilled (on unskilled and not tough) players. Once that team was shaped, he fired peace-loving coach Wilson and hired – you guessed it – former Ducks coach Randy Carlyle – who wants a team that is tough and will fight and hit. Well Randy, that is not the team you have here, which leads me to believe he’s the wrong coach for this team. Or, Burke was the wrong GM.
Here is the team Burke leaves for fans. I have highlighted the number of American players because former GM Burke was also the GM of team USA and I think by bringing all the US players here was a poor choice.
Dave Nonis takes over as GM. Like he did in Vancouver and in Anaheim after Burke was fired.
I might have to break my pledge now and watch some games because business just picked up!
Team USA, errr, Toronto Maple Leafs.
|—||Keith Aucoin||34||5-8||169||R||Waltham, Massachusetts||11/6/78|
|42||Tyler Bozak||26||6-1||195||R||Regina, Saskatchewan||3/19/86|
|32||Joe Colborne||22||6-5||216||L||Calgary, Alberta||1/30/90|
|12||Tim Connolly||31||6-1||190||R||Syracuse, New York||5/7/81|
|43||Nazem Kadri||22||6-0||188||L||London, Ontario||10/6/90|
|15||Matthew Lombardi||30||5-11||195||L||Montreal, Quebec||3/18/82|
|11||Jay McClement||29||6-1||205||L||Kingston, Ontario||3/2/83|
|20||David Steckel||30||6-5||218||L||Westbend, Wisconsin||3/15/82|
|48||Ryan Hamilton||27||6-2||219||L||Oshawa, Ontario||4/15/85|
|41||Nikolai Kulemin||26||6-1||225||L||Magnitogorsk, USSR||7/14/86|
|16||Clarke MacArthur||27||6-0||191||L||Lloydminster, Alberta||4/6/85|
|—||James van Riemsdyk||23||6-3||200||L||Middletown, New Jersey||5/4/89|
|37||Carter Ashton||21||6-3||215||L||Winnipeg, Manitoba||4/1/91|
|18||Mike Brown||27||5-11||205||R||Northbrook, Illinois||6/24/85|
|39||Matt Frattin||24||5-11||187||R||Edmonton, Alberta||1/3/88|
|81||Phil Kessel||25||6-0||202||R||Madison, Wisconsin||10/2/87|
|19||Joffrey Lupul||29||6-1||206||R||Edmonton, Alberta||9/23/83|
|28||Colton Orr||30||6-3||222||R||Winnipeg, Manitoba||3/3/82|
|4||Cody Franson||25||6-5||213||R||Salmon Arm, British Columbia||8/8/87|
|—||Mark Fraser||26||6-3||220||L||Ottawa, Ontario||9/29/86|
|51||Jake Gardiner||22||6-0||200||L||Deephaven, Minnesota||7/4/90|
|36||Carl Gunnarsson||26||6-2||196||L||Orebro, Sweden||11/9/86|
|55||Korbinian Holzer||24||6-3||205||R||Munich, Germany||2/16/88|
|8||Mike Komisarek||30||6-4||243||R||West Islip, New York||1/19/82|
|24||John-Michael Liles||32||5-10||185||L||Zionsville, Indiana||11/25/80|
|3||Dion Phaneuf||27||6-3||214||L||Edmonton, Alberta||4/10/85|
|—||Morgan Rielly||18||6-0||200||L||Vancouver, British Columbia||3/9/94|
|34||James Reimer||24||6-2||208||L||Winnipeg, Manitoba||3/15/88|
|40||Jussi Rynnas||25||6-5||212||L||Pori, Finland||5/22/87|
|30||Ben Scrivens||26||6-2||192||L||Spruce Grove, Alberta||9/11/86|
- Dave Nonis replaces Brian Burke as Maple Leafs GM (metronews.ca)
- Toronto Maple Leafs Reportedly Fire GM Brian Burke (bleacherreport.com)
- Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly fire Brian Burke (cbc.ca)