Heard On Episode 4.19 of A Foot In The Crease
The theory of “Tank Nation” pertaining to the Maple Leafs has become a touchy subject since midway through last season when it became clear that the team would miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Now, with the Maple Leafs on their way to a fourth straight season devoid of post season competition, the suggestion that they should purposefully lose their remaining games in the interest of securing a favourable draft position in the John Tavares sweepstakes is once again being brought back up.
We’ve said on numerous editions of this very program that purposefully losing games is not a good culture to foster on a team. Earlier in the week, Maple Leafs’ Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations said, "That is not the way to build the winning culture we want to establish." However, I’m starting to believe what the Maple Leafs are saying on the surface is not exactly what they are practicing from within.
Early in the season, Ron Wilson would hold players accountable by benching them or leaving them as healthy scratches for even the smallest of indiscretions. Over the past few weeks, the play of several veterans seems to have slipped back towards complacency but there has been no sign from the Coach of any method of accountability coming their way.
Nik Antropov has not scored in his last fifteen games but has not seen a diminishment in his ice time, much less the threat of becoming a healthy scratch. I guess it becomes awfully difficult to trade someone when you admit you don’t think they are any good. If Antropov, or for that matter Kaberle, Kubina or Ponikarovsky, is indeed on the trading block, the Leafs would lose significant bargaining power if their trading partner can cite a recent banishment to the press box.
So while the Leafs say they don’t purposefully want to lose, the fact that their hands are tied when it comes to holding players they might soon want to trade accountable, it could be forcing them to lose games purposefully anyway. But hey, all that was just rigamarole.