July 31 2012 12:12AM
Alright, work with me here...
This isn't a trade rumour. This isn't me having a “sources say” or a #CONFIRMED moment. This is just a theory I have about the Leafs' plans heading into 2012-13.
Leafs fans have been uneasily waiting this summer while the team has done very little to a roster that fell off the face of the earth this past February.
Jay McClement was the big free agent signing, if you can call $1.5 million a season “big.” While Nikolai Kulemin got re-upped for two more seasons, Cody Franson still remains unsigned. People have been talking about a James Reimer and Ben Scrivens tandem in net, meanwhile, Scrivens is still a restricted free agent. If we want to go back to June, Luke Schenn was traded for JVR. A big enough move, but so far their strategy is “let's try him at a position he hasn't played in several years.”
So what's going on?
One theory I have had this summer is that Brian Burke and the Leafs' top brass are doing the hardest thing right now, but what may ultimately be the smartest thing to do: Nothing.
Any of the big names that are available, or have been available, this offseason – Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo, Bobby Ryan, etc – are either extremely expensive acquisitions, big risks, or both. I have been thinking that the Leafs are putting their faith in a young but maturing roster that, for most of last season anyway, was a playoff team. It's not a very exciting option, and again, it's a leap of faith, but that is what the current situation looks like.
I do have a new theory, however.
Feel free to call this theory stupid. It's purely a guess, after all, but that's what most of these rumour-mongers do. At least I'm actually admitting it's a guess.
What if the Leafs are waiting to pull the trigger on something substantial?
It could be anything. There aren't many free agent options out there, but perhaps a big trade? A number one centre? A starting goalie? Whatever it is, it has to be something that makes fans, both pessimists and optimists, go “Wow!”
Now, there are two obvious questions here. One is what is the substantial move, and two is why wait. Well the answer to number one is I have no friggin' clue. Again, this isn't a trade rumour. The answer to number two requires a bit of explanation.
I cannot remember interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs ever being lower than it is now. Nobody says “maybe next year” and means it anymore. Nobody seems to have faith in the current team, and nobody seems to have faith in the team's future. I know many life-long Leafs fans who won't even buy or wear Leafs gear anymore. At least a few people I know have just said, “Screw this! I am no longer a Leafs fan!”
Can you blame them? Can you really call them fair-weather fans at this point? The team hasn't made the playoffs since Paul Martin was Prime Minister. They have been patient, they waited through some hard times, and now they're just fed up.
Interest in the Toronto Blue Jays is up much higher this season than it was last. Whether it's attendance, TV ratings, or merchandise that you can't look left or right without seeing in this city, the team has the city's interest. This is obviously partially because the Jays are a young, exciting team, but I think it also has to do with a city that's sick of cheering for losers. Not that the individual players are losers, but rather each team that has dawned the blue and white since Jeremy Roenick's OT dagger on May 4th, 2004.
(--*ed note*-- Eep)
What I'm getting at here, is the Leafs need to grab their own fanbase's attention back. They need something big before the next season begins, because as things stand right now, how can even the most hardcore of fans give a crap about this upcoming season? Who's buying Leafs jerseys right now? T-shirts? Hats?
Another added variable here: It's not going to be much fun watching the out-of-the-playoffs Leafs get murdered in the Winter Classic, preceded by a 24/7 reality show documenting their utter mediocrity for several months.
There's the theory: The Leafs are waiting until closer to the beginning of the season to make a move because interest and faith in this team hasn't been this low in a long time. Is it a bulletproof theory? Hell no. It's just food for thought. It's an idea, not a fake trade rumour or a lie.
What do you think?