It has been a long hard road for Toronto fans since the last time their beloved Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup over four decades ago.
What makes things worse are the decades of mismanagement the team has had. GM Brian Burke may not have turned the Leafs around like he had hoped—it is an uphill battle.
Toronto is a tough town to play for, especially as the years without a postseason continue to mount. The media is overly critical of the players and the organization, as are the fans.
Making things even tougher for Brian Burke is that Toronto is not a desired destination for players, and has not been for some time.
While the media will be quick to attach Toronto to rumors when a big name player is mentioned in a potential trade or free agency, it never seems to materialize.
For some time now Toronto has become a destination for the broken, aged and underachieving players.
With names like Colby Armstrong, who many fans wanted to like, was continually injured. Or Eric Lindros, once a powerhouse player that denied playing for Quebec came to Toronto after a series of concussions left him a shell of the player he had been.
Veteran players like Joe Nieuwendyk and Owen Nolan had short stints with the Leafs near the end of their careers, both battling injuries during their tenure.
Even now the biggest name that was brought to Toronto was James Van Riemsdyk, a winger who showed a lot of promise that has yet to materialize.
It would be great to see JVR succeed in Toronto, but he falls into a pattern the Leafs have seen since the days of former owner, Harold Ballard.
This offseason has highlighted some of the media trying to overhype Toronto as a desired location.
There were rumors that the Leafs might have a shot with Zach Parise (rumormethis.com), causing some excitement in the fans. It was yet another Toronto rumor that never panned out.
Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Sun Sports Blog) and Rick Nash (Toronto Star) were also tied to trade rumors. It became clear (Toronto Star) that Toronto was not in the running. Nash was eventually dealt to the Rangers; Luongo on the other hand was eventually downplayed(Toronto Sun).
It is not that Toronto has not been winning. Back in the early 90s, Toronto had not been a winning team yet and was able to land players like Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin and Curtis Joseph.
While Toronto’s drought is closing in on the 13 year record from when Ballard was owner, the losses are not the only factor.
This past season when Randy Carlyle replaced the deposed Ron Wilson, he told reporters that the number one issue was confidence, as reported by TSN.ca.
Carlyle had seen it before when Francois Beauchemin was traded to Anaheim from Toronto, according to the TSN.ca article, it took weeks for his confidence to return.
For the fans and the media, the Maple Leafs need to start winning and progressing their way to the cup.
Do You Believe Toronto is a Tough Market to Play in?
The unfortunate reality is that this won’t happen if talent does not want to play here, and when you come to a town known for shattering confidence—why would they?
Burke may have tried his best this offseason to bring in Zach Parise, Rick Nash and other big names on the market. However, with a reputation like Toronto, it is no wonder he has had issues.
Brian Burke has been known to pull off amazing trades that turn around clubs; he helped lay the ground work that has Vancouver sitting a top of the league for the last few seasons.
He also turned the Anaheim Ducks into Stanley Cup Champions, but the task of doing the same in Toronto may be too much even for him.
Until the fans and the media back down from the Leafs, they will continue to be near the bottom of the destination list.
Instead of jumping down their throats when they begin losing—be a rally force. The Leafs Nation would do well to figure out how to be supportive rather than overreacting to past failures.