The Leafs are bad right now. Six losses in a row, two regulation wins in sixteen, an inability to win unless Frederik Andersen is in net, and no home games for another ten days.
Things are at the lowest point of the Mike Babcock era, and that includes a last-place finish in the NHL and a couple of heartbreaking Game 7 losses in Boston.
The Leafs appear broken, but it’s a different kind of broken. It’s not like you can blame Auston Matthews, who’s got 14 goals and 27 points in 23 games. It’s not like you can blame Kyle Dubas, who despite an overpay or two or six has still made enough changes to a roster that is underperforming their potential. And even if you want to blame Mike Babcock… it’s hard to solely pin every single one of the Leafs’ shortcomings on him. There’s something rotten here right now, but I have a solution to stop the bleeding a little. A jersey throw.
You remember it. A staple of the 2014-15 season, where the Leafs felt they should’ve been competing in the playoffs, but were stuck tinkering through another rinky-dink Randy Carlyle (and eventually, Peter Horachek) season.
One particular game against Carolina saw not one, not two, but three jerseys tossed on the ice. The team was in the middle of their fifth straight loss, in a streak that would stretch out to… eleven!
And this was after the Leafs had already fired Randy Carlyle!
The team finished the season with 68 points, a number they somehow improved by one and ended up finishing last in the NHL the next season.
Now, I’m not one to usually endorse minor crimes, but a little bit of shenanigans could be exactly what this Leafs team needs to get going. At the Leafs’ next home game on November 30th, they’ll probably see the team fall out to a multi-goal deficit against the Buffalo Sabres. And if that happens, it’s the perfect time for Tommy Tosser to huck his counterfeit Joffrey Lupul jersey onto the Scotiabank Arena ice.
The thing about a jersey throw is it has to capture the emotion of everyone else in the arena. Even if the team has lost five games in a row, you can’t toss it on the ice if the team is winning. And even if the team is losing, they usually have to have a low goal total themselves for the rest of the fans to have the energy completely sucked out of them.
But if all the things come together ten days from now: a multi-goal deficit, a still struggling Leafs team, and an irate in-arena fanbase? Strip it and rip it.
The thing about jersey throws is they’re front page news, head of the highlight reel, and honestly, all anyone wants to talk about.
And goddamn, are they ever embarrassing. They’re embarrassing for the players, who have to answer questions about a fan’s action. They’re embarrassing for management, who’ve created a fan mindset that the team is not good enough to even make the playoffs. And they’re embarrassing for the coach, who has to look as some hapless arena worker stares them down while taking the jersey off the ice.
But mostly, they’re embarrassing for the organization as a whole. A jersey of such a storied fanbase should really be something you see as somewhat sacred, or at the very least, something you treat with respect. It’s a purchase you have to think enough about beforehand, it’s something you usually avoid getting dirty, but tossing it on the ice shows you just really don’t give a shit anymore. It’s the passive-aggressive hockey method of a public breakup.
They’re the kind of story that fires up your coworker Kevin, who has not watched a full Leafs game in fourteen years, and they’re the kind of story that your uncle will still bring up a month from now at your holiday dinner.
They suck ass, and no one likes to see it from their favourite team.
But at least they’d distract us for a bit, and maybe, just maybe, piss off the team enough to start stringing together some wins.