ESPN Once Again Ranks the Leafs the Worst Sports Franchise In North America

It appears that the NHL Standings aren’t the only ones that
have the Leafs at the bottom lately. Just when you feel you haven’t been
reminded enough about what a disaster the Leafs are, BOOM! here come the ESPN
“Ultimate” Standings
, which ranking teams from the big four sports leagues
by a number of criteria, and for the third time in four years, the Maple Leafs
are dead last at 122nd overall.

Now, there are lots of reasons to not care about what ESPN
and what the average sports fan thinks of the Leafs. There are plenty of
people, including Leafs fans, who would purposely rank the Leafs lower in polls
and surveys because of sports hate, and there are plenty of flaws in a criteria
that values stadium experience three times 
more than it values the coaching staff, but hidden in this clickbaity
poll are actually some unfortunate truths about this organization.

The score is derived from polling 1014 Sports fans, followed
by an open online poll which had over 100,000 participants, and finally “bang
for the buck” information from the University of Oregon was used, and
undoubtedly put the final nail in the Leafs coffin.

The categories and the Leafs scores in each group are listed
below:

Title Track- 120th
out of 122

“Championships won or expected within the lifetime of current
fans”

This is a pretty obnoxious question as my Dad is a Leafs fan
and has seen numerous championships in his lifetime, and for me, as a 30
something year old Leafs fan, it I have my doubts that ESPN surveys can
accurately predict the success of the unborn Leafs of my twilight years.

That being said, there are young players in this
organization who now give us hope, but trying to imagine when the Leafs will
compete for a cup again is a crap shoot. At my most optimistic its 5 years with
all of the top prospects reaching their ceiling and continued solid drafting to
boot. I can get why this is a low score because the playoffs seem like a
ridiculous uphill climb at the moment.

Ownership- 115 out of
122

I was confused why ownership would be so low in the
rankings. I imagine not too many Leafs fans love the unholy alliance of
Rogers/Bell, but the fact is the Leafs print money and that’s good for
stability. The way that ESPN defines ownership in this poll is through
honestly, and loyalty to star players and to the community.

Telecommunications companies aren’t known for their honesty,
and the “is he gone or isn’t he” act with Leiweke certainly doesn’t improve
their case. Their best move is their increasing distance between hockey ops and
the MLSE board.

When it comes to loyalty to fans and players you can take
issue with dumping Kessel and not giving him an opportunity to be a part of the
solution, and MLSE isn’t nearly as involved in the community as a billion
dollar business should be.

What’s also very interesting is that the Raptors were ranked
87th on ownership, so I think there might be flaws in the survey.

Coaching- 38th
out of 122

The Leafs ranked best in the category with the lowest
weighting, but we’ll take what we can get and what we got is a world class
coach. I honestly don’t know how coaching only accounts for 3.8% of the
organizational score when fan relations counts for 25%, but you can’t argue
with the worldwide leader in sports. They know fans don’t want wins; they want
well run social media accounts.

Players- 122nd
out of 122

This is based on “effort on the field and likeability off of
it.” Well, the Leafs are easy targets for being beaten up on here, but remember
this is out of every major sports league and last time I checked the Detroit
Lions are still a thing. I mean, the Lions might be really likeable and not
have fun issues like salute gate to deal with. And most teams have at least one
star player which I’m not sure you can actually say is true for the Leafs
anymore.

Since my argument is essentially, there has to be someone
worse, I have to say I’m perfectly fine with this ranking because other than
youth and prospects there isn’t much to be excited about here.

Fan Relations- 122nd
out of 122

“Courtesy by players, coaches and front office toward fans,
plus how well a team uses technology to reach fans”

Amazingly this accounts for 25% of the organizations score.
That’s my largest issue here. I really couldn’t care too much about platitudes
from players, but as the parent of a young child I’m sure that will change
(though I’d prefer she not consider athletes role models).

I guess Bozak delivering season tickets or Clarkson working
the Dairy Queen drive-thru doesn’t endear us to the team enough. I would have
thought the Leafs Coaching Clinics might, but after hearing what other
organizations do, a couple of mandatory visits to Children’s Hospitals around
the holidays probably don’t hold up.

The fact that the team’s social media is part of this
category and that it’s a quarter of what matters about this organization is
hilarious to me and really gets at this being a Darren Rovellian type
assessment of teams. We aren’t rating teams, we are ranking strength of brands.
Whenever you do that the Leafs come off as the lovechild of Halliburton and Walmart,
or you know, Rogers and Bell.

Affordability
– 122nd out of 122

Yeah, Leafs games are expensive and that sucks. Unfortunately
simple economics probably show the prices could even be higher. The Leafs haven’t
struggled to sell out as the most expensive sports ticket in North America
while being one of the worst teams in the past decade so I’m gonna say, this is
just an unfortunate reality.

If tickets were cheaper, they’d still be bought up by people
who aren’t you and resold for $200 a pop on StubHub, so don’t worry, high
ticket prices punish the resale market, not you.

Stadium
Experience – 116 out of 122

This is another one that amazes me it counts as much as it
does, but I guess when you look at the Cubs who get to be loveable losers in
one of the most beautiful parks in America it forgives a multitude of other sins.
I guess that fact that I’m an out of market fan, who has been the Air Canada
Centre once, it’s safe to say this doesn’t really factor into what I consider
when thinking about the Leafs.

The ACC is a mixed bag for me. On one hand I love that you can
have a conversation at a normal volume with the people you’ve gone to the game
with, and I love that there is no risk of the wave being started, but there’s
also the fact that arena is bland as hell, the in game entertainment is hacky,
and there are some truly regrettable sight lines in a building designed specifically
to gouge locals on tickets.

At least the beer selection isn’t terrible.

Bang for
the Buck- 122nd out of 122

Wins in
the past two years per fan dollar, adjusted for league schedules”

Yeah, who couldn’t see this coming? Expensive tickets,
expensive beer, expensive concessions, lack of wins. Again, the expensive part
isn’t going away, so we’re best to hope the wins will eventually come and in
the meantime enjoy the fact the bad team will make us want to give them less
money.

Final
Thoughts

The Leafs aren’t good on ice, they are expensive, they don’t
go above away from the rink, and an arena that is devoid of character is simply
an opportunity for you to pay 4-star restaurant prices for a Mr. Sub footlong
and a Molson Canadian. The Leafs really are awful.

How does their score improve? Well, I think Justin Fisher had
the best idea and it’s for Rogers and Bell to buy ESPN and gift themselves a
more favourable ranking.

While that’s probably the kind of quick fix that suits
the  MLSE Board, a more practical
approach is probably to accept that they have no interest in cutting prices,
won’t rush a rebuild simply because it impacts a meaningless magazine ranking,
but perhaps they’re interested in tackling things that are more doable.

The Leafs social media game has improved significantly over
the past year, with worthwhile giveaways, timely highlights, and often breaking
the teams news before insiders have it. So that’s something, but not much.

The Air Canada Center can offer products that people would like
to spend money on, instead of leaving customers pining for the time they ate at
an airport Chili’s.

All things considered, this is a pretty dumb survey and isn’t
going to get a second look from anyone at MLSE, but while my initial reaction
may have been “the Leafs aren’t that bad”, the more I reflected on it, it
seemed that dead last seems just about right for them.

 

  • CMpuck

    Love the direction the franchise as an organization, happiest I’ve been as a Leaf fan in over a decade.

    ESPN on the other hand, charging for ‘inside’ information in articles, treating hockey as a fringe sport… I have zero interest in their product, this list is just their yearly troll now I may continue ignoring them.

  • ESPN nailed the player ranking by placing them last. They have to look no further then the leafs so called first line center bozak who is a sorry excuse for a nhl hockey player.

    Even Bozak’s corsi and fancy stats reflect just how inadequate his effor tna performance is.

    • N.Rad

      Player ranking is what really gets me here. Yeah the leafs do not have great talent in the NHL, but at least they are descent players off the ice. The organization doesn’t have players that are ending up in jail for drunk driving (Sabres), beating up woman/children (LA Kings, Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings), smuggling drugs across the boarder/using drugs (LA Kings, Habs).

      ESPN Player ranking of these teams:
      LA Kings ranked 44!!!
      Baltimore Ravens ranked 13!!!

  • Leafydudetwitter

    I would have expected the Leafs to finish ahead of any organisation that lauds a player accused of rape or terminates an onerous contract for a minor drugs offence while keeping a convicted wife beater on its books but I guess my values must be different from the kind of people who vote in these polls.