The Toronto Maple Leafs ended their rapid bleed-out on Tuesday night, becoming mathematically eliminated from a potential spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As you would expect, the fanbase is looking for their excuses. Many have recognized flaws in this team for a while now, and whether you think they’re taking the right or wrong approach, have at least given it some thought. Tonight, however, you get the fans who are reaching for the shelves to get the leftover excuses that took them twelve seconds to think up.
One in particular is trending high on the internet; the players don’t care; they’re too rich.
I received this minutes after the loss, and shrugged it off, only to have several people trying to push the same point on Twitter. The simple argument is this: guys like Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, and the rest of the Leafs core have a gazillion dollars and don’t need to worry about whether they lose or not. Here’s a few flaws with that train of thought:
Let’s think about what it takes to be an NHL player, shall we? Before these guys know what greed is, before they know what rich is, in a time that a handful of quarters may as well be a billion dollars, they’re already on the ice. They’re playing, because their goal in life is to be a hockey player. They want to win the championship. It could be house league. It could be the Stanley Cup. How far they get is up to their efforts.
For the first decade and a half of their development, they’re playing for free. Why? Because their goal in life is be a great hockey player. Why? Not because they’re in it for the money; that’s a high risk move, to be spending so much money on getting better with so many factors being involved into whether you make it or not. That’s terrible investment. No. They still want to win.
These guys don’t suddenly become about the paycheque once they get their first one. They’ve invested their entire lives into this. Hockey is all they know. All they want from it is to be the best they can be. They still dream of the Stanley Cup Winning goal, whether they’re 4 or 40. If it was about the money, you wouldn’t see career-minor leaguers, putting their body and mind at stake in a hostile environment for less than many desk jobs.
Financial security is just a bonus, and the players tend to leave that to their agents. They’re obviously cool with getting more, because that will be useful when the dream is over, but at the end of the day, they strive to make sure that the dream plays out exactly as they wanted it to. It’s why you’re much more likely to see players take a paycut to sign for a winner than cash out and intentionally leave a good thing for a bottom feeder.
Even if someone was just looking to cash out, do you know what the most effective way of doing that is? Being awesome at hockey. You’ll make more money if you’re successful. Not driven by a Stanley Cup? Fine. But do you know how much a key player on a cup winner makes? Better get back to practice.
Here’s the other thing to, why does this only seem to apply to star players? Why is this pointed out about Phil Kessel, but not a guy making league minimum? Here’s the thing about $600,000 a year – it’s not $8,000,000, but it’s a decade of a regular salary, if not more for the average person. A few years in the NHL and a shrewd person would never have to leave the house again.
If this exists, shouldn’t it happen with every player, not just the highest paid ones? Hey, on that note, aren’t the highest paid ones the ones who have the better track records? Why is it the ones who historically have put in a more positive effort are the ones pointed to for not showing any?
Yet another issue with this: if this is indeed the problem, do you mean to tell me that it exclusively happens in Toronto? They operate under the same salary cap, after all. With the exception of a small handful of players, everybody is making essentially market value. Why would this city, that’s supposed to be a pressure cooker that breathes down your back when you fail, leave room for these guys to feel complacent by virtue of financial security?
Just think about that. Read it to yourself. It’s some of the most backwards logic that one could possibly create in their over-worked mind.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot of problems. Their problem isn’t that a guy who has been dreaming of being a great hockey player since he was escaping toddlerhood being handed a paycheque and saying “hah, okay, nothing else matters, time to stop chasing my dreams and hit the club”.
It doesn’t happen. It doesn’t line up with the expected mindset of these guys as human beings. It doesn’t line up with basic logic. It sure as hell wouldn’t exclusively happen in the most vocal hockey market on the planet if it did. It’s just an aggressively dumb thought. Never bring it up again.