A Midsummer Night’s Theory

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?

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  • RexLibris

    I don’t think they’d be waiting for the purposes of making it more exciting for fans or anything like that. If the Leafs are waiting to make a move I suspect it would have more to do with waiting for the market to change in some way. Once you can make the trade you want, you do it, waiting just gives more opportunity for it to fall apart.

    I’m sure though if a move does happen later in the offseason it will be worked into to their marketing to build hype for the season, kind of like the naming of Phaneuf captain a few years back or the Kessel trade just before the start of training camp.

  • RexLibris

    Good article, Steve.

    I really hope there is something big in the works. But Brian Burke doesn’t seem like a “wait around” kind of guy; He likes to get things done early if possible. Maybe the Schenn-JVR trade WAS the “big” move before next season.

    When you look at this Leafs team, who is there to trade? Scrolling down the roster, it really is slim pickins’ when you’re dying for a superstar center or experienced goaltender. And I’ve written off UFAs because, let’s face it, Toronto isn’t on the top of most NHL players lists to sign with.

    Call me pessimistic, but I feel more realist. Thanks to this blog Steve, I will really sit on the hope that Burke’s got a good thing coming, but if not, I’m still a Leaf fan. They will always be my team, no matter what. I will go into next season on a hope they will make the playoffs – Current roster or whatever.

  • An optimist would claim that the Leaf’s have generally the same team that lead them into the first place spot early 2011 season. But also a pessimist would revolt that it’s also the same team that spilled the beer all over itself early 2012. Good point. Nash would have been the guy they wanted! But I think the “big move” here will come down to working a goal tender in there. Reimer did phenomenal in 2010, Scrivens did exceptional last year. But in order to be a consistent playoff contending team, then need to improv a flaw that they’ve always had which is an inconsistency of goaltending. So whether that means signing Luongo’s fat contract (highly unlikely) or picking up L.A.’s backup or someone along those lines. A huge trade NEEDS to be done in order for Toronto to regain the momentum they once had 2 years ago.

  • To be honest, I’d love to believe this, but I can’t see Burke pulling the trigger on anything anymore. He is obsessed with his mediocre farm system and I have lost all my faith in him. When he came here, at least he tried gutsy moves, but the media has drove him into a state of being conservative. Ron Wilson was fired because “It would be an injustice to allow Ron to coach another game at the ACC”. Another FACT: Dave Nonis was largely responsible for the signing of Tim Connolly because he, and many others in the Leafs organization feared the media’s reaction if the Leafs didn’t sign a center. The only guy who was opposed to this was Rick Dudley, who is gone now. The media has constantly ripped on Burke for every move he’s made, and deservedly so. He will not do anything drastic because he knows his time is up in Toronto, and I don’t know why the terrible ownership doesn’t let him go already and let another GM build this team before the season starts.

  • RexLibris

    I think they just don’t want to make moves that ruin the organization in the bigger picture.

    They have a lot of contracts running out next season, and there will be more, and more interesting, free agents available, so my feeling is they’ve been waiting for that crop of UFAs. It worked for Florida, I guess.

  • I’m a die hard Leafs fan, and have been all my life. I cannot think of a single season where I had less confidence, or interest. After 2010-11 I remember thinking “finally, we have a goalie!”, but at the end of 2011-12 it was nothing. Their collapse at the end of the season killed my confidence that this team will make the playoffs next season or the season after that, or the one after that, etc… We’ve arguably been the worst franchise in the league for the last 6 years, but yet where is our Toews? Where’s our Stamkos? Even freaken Duchene.. We have Kessel, yes.. But a 1-dimensional forward will not lead this team to anything.

  • I haven’t even really thought about this season yet. Looking at the rest of the teams in the conference make moves and improve, while we have done nothing hasn’t been very uplifting. I’ve never really jumped on the bandwagon that said we should just tank. This year I’m ready to pick Mackinnon.

  • I totally agree with Steeve. I mean… the leafs team is ridiculous right now. We don’t even have a number one goaltender. No real first centermen. I will not buy any leafs shirts or hats until something move in this team. We need something big before the begining of the season. Enough is engouh.

    Don’t buy any tickets leafs fans. Send a message to Mr Burke. Don’t let those guys laughing at you like that. You working hard to get Leafs game tickets. But your team sucks for 8 consecutive season. And you still bying it? Hey guys… How do you want to win a game with Reimer, and Scriven between the pipes? How ia that possible? Even if Kessel and Lupul scores 7 goals, Reimer will give 8 goals! Our better goalie was the Monster, and now hes gone for Detroit. Good move Mr Burke. Oh an we gave Armstrong for nothing to the Canadiens… Good job Mr Burke…