Amid speculation that the Toronto Maple Leafs have hired their newest head coach, I decided it was about time that I put forth my opinion on my favourite and most followed professional sports franchise.
The announcement has yet to have been made official, but all signs point towards the club formally welcoming Wilson to the circus that is MLSE later this week.
Now the term "circus" may seem comical, or even inappropriate in this situation, however I beg to differ.
Mr. Wilson put together an exceptional last season in San Jose, leading the Sharks to a 49-23-10 regular season record. However, the team was once again disappointed in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs—this year in a loss to the Dallas Stars.
Despite the early exit, Wilson's team unequivocally had a superior season in comparison to that of Paul Maurice and my beloved Leafs. Therefore, this would seem like the safest, most careful move the organization could make in regards to their vacant coaching position—and it is.
However, once again, this was not a hockey move, it was a business move. Welcome to Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the most profitable corporation in the National Hockey League.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the many affiliates of MLSE, has three vacant positions as of June 2, 2008: general manager, head coach, and captain.
Logic, reasoning, and any form of common sense would direct the franchise to build from the top and find a competent and knowledgeable general manager first, and then let him lead the team in his own direction with a vision to succeed.
However the Board of Directors at MLSE decided to look for the coach first, and handle the GM matter later. This leaves the team in a very awkward and unprecedented situation that further supports their label of "circus."
We now have a team with no vision, no captain, and mediocre players—but a very capable coach and still not a very bright future.
The reason for the lack of aforementioned characteristics of common sense within MLSE is simple. They do not exist because MLSE is not running the Leafs to win a Stanley Cup, they are not running the team as a hockey club.
Instead, they are running it as a business entity, built solely on making a large profit margin, and they are doing it very well.
Over the past decade, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment has amassed the most incoming profit compared to any other NHL franchise, despite the lack of championships and winning teams. They have done this by assessing a market and using its strengths and weaknesses effectively.
The demand for a Stanley Cup in Toronto is greater than any other, but winning this championship is not the goal of MLSE—it doesn’t have to be.
More than ninety-five percent of the Air Canada Centre are season ticket holders, and are sold out for the next five decades. Leafs' jerseys are the most commonly sold piece of hockey memorabilia in the world.
The fan base is huge—and is hungry. This hunger originates from the lack of success for the last four decades. This hunger continues to grow as the Stanley Cup drought continues at 41 years now.
MLSE has exploited this hunger—has understood the fan base and has acted appropriately to make significant profits. They continue to promise a winning team. They continue to promise that they are building a contender, and a dynasty will be formed (Leafs' officials were quoted the other day saying they wanted to duplicate the "Detroit Red Wings Model" which I frankly found to be quite hilarious).
They continue to pretend, the fans keep coming back, and they continue to make loads and loads of money. They continue to see a championship as unnecessary to the bottom line: money.
A championship would take away this hunger, and would possibly be detrimental to the success of the corporation, so why risk it?
So why risk losing a good coaching candidate by looking for a good GM first? Why do things the right way for once in order to maybe build a respectable hockey franchise? There's no need.
So there we have it. The fans are working in conjunction with the owners of MLSE to make this team mediocre to good (at best) every year. And things won't be changing anytime soon.
So Leafs fans, we can keep hoping, dreaming, and praying for competence to hit Larry Tanenbaum and company in the behind, but it just doesn't seem likely. MLSE will continue its ways with the Leafs unless something big changes soon (don't count on it).
The franchise is too deep into the hole of corporate capitalism to be saved now, even by someone named Burke (despite the hope that the Leafs' media outlets continue to feed the fans rumors about Burke coming in next year as the "super GM" and saviour).
Let the speculation mount, let the fans' blood boil, let the lies and deception continue, and let us watch Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment continue to run the most profitable spectacle in the business.
All we need is for Richard Peddie to get that rubber red nose, and we've got ourselves a full fledged circus...Welcome Mr. Wilson, and Go Leafs Go.