Muhamed Aulie, Optimus Reim, The Reiminister of Defense are just a few names Leafs Nation gives players with no pedigree, no NHL experience and no actual NHL accomplishments.
Last season, we witnessed the meteoric rise of Keith Aulie and James Reimer. The latter more so than the former.
One was traded for nothing, so that is all you need to know about Keith Aulie.
James Reimer, on the other hand, got on one knee and was tapped on both shoulders by Leafs Nation and arose the savior of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Why? I have to ask.
Sure, he played some good games. Sure, he showed potential. Sure, the games from January 1st on last season were exciting to watch. Save after save, game after game, win after win, it was compelling. I'm not going to lie.
I was just as excited to watch the games as any other Leaf fan. But, let's look at some cold, hard facts.
The saves and wins all came when the Leafs were well out of a playoff spot. James Reimer was a nobody before last season. Sure, he played decent for the Marlies, but that does not make a No. 1 NHL goalie.
He has done nothing to deserve the pressure being placed on him or the team. The team even more so. What have the Leafs done in the last seven years to make you think that this year was any different?
Leafs fans actually found a way to get excited about Matthew Lombardi. A concussed player with one season of 50-plus points in god knows how many. Leafs fans actually found a way to overvalue Cody Franson. These are two players we got for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney, a career AHLer that can't even skate. I know. I have seen the guy play live for the Marlies.
Leafs Nation ALWAYS does this.
They get crazy and put players that have some talent, but are unproven and have no pedigree, on a pedestal higher than Gretzky or Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, could reach.
Then what happens? The same thing that always happens. The unproven, young, inexperienced prospect falls short.
The media in this town are even worse. They should have the brains to temper fan expectations and say James Reimer is not good enough—not yet anyway.
The media actually make it worse by sensationalizing the story and making the fans even more crazy. The media get on their soap box and make fun of Burke, Wilson, Carlyle, Fletcher, etc.
The team is not good. The so-called "educated" fans of this market should see that. The Leafs are not a playoff team. They will not be next season either. Perhaps not even the season after that. But, that is okay because every plan has to take its course.
The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted five times in the bottom five of the draft and even though they made the playoffs in the fifth year, they did not end up making noise in the NHL until the sixth year of that rebuild and the rest is history.
And that is with two elite centers and an elite goalie.
Can anyone remember the Pens playing Fleury game after game and watching him give up goal after goal? Looking bad. Losing a lot of games. People saying "they shouldn't play this kid, they are ruining his confidence." And "He might not be good enough". Well, in his third year, the numbers got much better.
What on earth makes the fans that make up Leafs Nation think that the Leafs are a playoff team in the fourth year of Burke's tenure?
Burke spent two of those years getting rid of Toskala, Stajan, Mayers, White, Blake, Bell, Ponikarovsky, Hagman, Moore, Kubina, Kaberle, Stempniak, John Mithell, Jonas Frogren, Jeff Hamilton, Juri Tlusty...the list goes on, believe me.
The rebuild started with shedding the unwanted players and it continues with picking up players that the Leafs can build around.
The Leafs don't have the best team, by any stretch of the imagination, but they do have some decent players that are young and if Leafs fans give them a fighting chance, they will become even better.
But no. Let's chant "Fire Wilson," "Fire Burke." Let's fire everyone and trade every player. Is that any way to run a hockey team year after year?
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a sad franchise and it's the fault of the fans and the media.
The fans and media wouldn't know good, great or upcoming talent even if Gretzky and Bobby Orr told them so.
Leafs fans paint charcoal gold and then when they realize that it is not real gold, they try and offer it up for Rick Nash.
How is Versteeg doing in Florida?
Let's trade Phil Kessel, eh?
Only in this town would a potential 40-goal, 80-point winger be an awful player, and why?
Apparently, he doesn't give great interviews. He is shy. He wears funny hats. WHO CARES!
He is paid $5.4 million to produce on the ice. He is the only player on the Leafs earning his salary.
Leafs fans are so easily influenced it is not even funny. Why? Because they are not as educated as they think.
Leafs fans think they are owed something, that they deserve something other sports fans don't and when you ask them what that is, they say "You don't get it," "You don't understand."
I have been a Leafs fan since I can remember. I am one of the most diehard fans of the Leafs in the world.
I don't have a single problem with this team, and you know why? Because I know what they are and what they are not. A good hockey team, they are not. A rebuilding and young team, they are.
These are not excuses for the team playing poorly. When they suck, they suck. You can't sugarcoat that, and I'm not trying to sugarcoat anything. This team is defeated and the games against Boston and the NY Islanders show it.
It is because they are a young and rebuilding team that we have up-and-down seasons like this one. I am glad to get a high draft pick this season. Not because I am a part of "Tank Nation," but because I know that this pick will be an integral part of this team going forward.
Burke has done a great job so far. I have faith in him. I also have hope every season that this team does well. But, my hope for a great season does not cloud my judgment that this is not a playoff team.
And when they don't make it, I don't say we should fire everyone under the sun and trade every player.
That is not what a real "educated" fan does.
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