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As talk around Luke Schenn swirls, going through that adjustment when your favorite Leaf leaves town

The Leafs weren't exactly at their very best Friday night, but they did bounce back from an early 2-0 deficit in Buffalo.  Grabovski continued his relatively torrid offensive pace of late, and Crabb scored on the road yet again.


A positive to take away was that Gustavsson made some "gotta see that again" saves in the third period while the Leafs were fighting to tie things up.  That's the trait that served Reimer so well through much of the second half of last season- the ability to make big saves to keep your team in the game when you're behind.


Not a great night but no reason for concern.


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And a quick aside:   for those who might have missed yesterday's post on how relationships between father and son can go off the rails over something as simple as a hockey game (or if you liked Bobby Orr), click here... 

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It’s always interesting to follow the Twitter hockey chat, particularly when it’s in reference to the Leafs and the things that the team may—or may not—do when it comes to player moves.

I posted here recently that I really, really hoped that Carl Gunnarsson would not be a part of any trade that Burke might make.  He wasn't at his best, maybe, on Friday night in Buffalo, but I just think the guy is a fine defenseman—smart, moves the puck. We don't necessarily notice him most of the time because he is a good, quietly effective player. 

Now that’s all very nice on my part, but I have about as much impact on whether the young defenseman gets traded as I have on whether the sun comes up tomorrow morning, which is to say, none at all.  But that’s how I feel and what I’d like to see happen.  I just have no say in the matter.

That's how many Leaf supporters feel right now about Luke Schenn.  They don't want him to be part of any big trades.  Brian Burke went so far as to deny Schenn was being offered (though, as we know, there can be a subtle difference between "being offered" and "being discussed"....).

As fans, we all have a right to our thoughts and opinions, and part of the enjoyment in being a fan of a particular team, whether it’s the Leafs or any side in any sport, is that we bring, with that devotion, other little, let’s call them…peculiarities. We may like certain players more than others.  (Some fans  may even get a little obsessed, in a healthy hockey kind of way.) Most of us have “favorites”.  It’s natural.  It may make us a bit happier, say, when certain player score a goal, or makes a big save, if we are somewhat emotionally invested in their success.

You always hate to see certain players go.  I remember when Frank Mahovlich was traded in February of 1968, not even a full year after the Leafs won their last Cup.  (And I don’t mean their last Cup in that run of 4 Cups in the 1960s.  I mean their last Cup, period…)

I admired Mahovlich (left) but was not a died-in-the-wool Mahovlich guy, so while I remember the deal like it was yesterday—because it was a mammoth trade in hockey history and especially for we Leaf fans back then—I wasn’t personally bent out of shape.  I still loved the Leafs and just wanted to see the guys that came back from Detroit (Normie Ullman, Floy Smith and Paul Henderson) help get the team playing better.  And they pretty much did.

But for some Leaf followers, it was a betrayal, enough to make them turn their backs on their favorite team.

I was sad, for example, when Jim Dorey was traded during the 1971-’72 season.  I liked Dorey a lot as part of a then young and talented corps of defensemen (Rick Ley, Brian Glennie, Brad Selwood, Mike Pelyk, Jim McKenny, etc.) that I figured would only get better.  But General Manager Jim Gregory needed a bit more scoring, so he moved Dorey for a Ranger who might add some goals to the roster.  (Pierre Jarry, I think it was…)

But my real personal Alamo when it came to losing a “favorite” was when owner Harold Ballard had no interest in re-signing then long-time captain Dave Keon in the summer of 1975.  Keon had been with the Leafs for 15 mostly distinguished seasons.  He was no longer the player he had been, and there were references to some un-spoken off-ice issues that were raised at times in the Toronto media.  But to not offer a guy who had been an absolute fan- favorite Leaf a contract was a slap in the face to Keon—and to a lot of us fans.

But Ballard didn’t care.  Keon (right) had to go to the World Hockey Association to continue his career.  (He had no freedom to sign with another NHL team, as the Leafs still “owned” and thus protected his rights…)

My biggest link to the Leafs was gone.  But life was going on and so were the Leafs, whether I was  on board or not.  Lanny McDonald was next up as my favorite Maple Leaf.  Sentiment could only take a fan (me) so far.

I know it was very hard for a lot of people when Darryl Sittler’s relationship with Ballard and the Leafs deteriorated in the early 1980s.  Sittler, a well-respected captain, like Keon before him, eventually was traded to (of all teams) the hated Flyers.  But if you loved the Leafs, well, the team was always more than one guy, and you either switched allegiances or stayed with the blue and white.

Some Leaf followers might have left the building after Sittler was traded, I’m not really certain.  For people like me, “switching” was never an option, I guess, so that was off the table.

I’m sure some Leaf fans were crestfallen when Wendel Clark (left) was dealt by Cliff Fletcher in the summer of 1994.  The Leafs had just come off two consecutive “final-four” appearances in the NHL playoffs.  But Fletcher felt the Leafs—as they were constituted at the time—if they were going to reach the next level, needed a makeover.  So off went Wendel.  (Sundin turned out to be a marvelous addition for more than a decade, but Fletcher wasn’t around long enough to see his team ever reach those- relatively speaking- giddy heights again.

So I really understand when I hear people say, “I hope they don’t move Luke Schenn….”  or “”I’ll be really ticked if Kadri is included in any deal…”.  I get it.  We become attached to these guys, albeit from a distance, and because we care about the team and their successes give us pleasure, we want that to continue.  And we want our favorite players to be part of it.  I like Gunnarsson.  You may like Schenn.  Maybe someone else loves Gustavsson.  The next guy is all about Reimer.  It's all good.

The reality is, when a deal is made and a player we “care” about is dealt, a little piece of what we love about the Leafs does leave. It’s just the way it is.

But on most cases, we lick our wounds, get ticked, but come back to the fold.  It’s in our blood.  As people like to say, the name on the front of the jersey means more than the name on the back.

So it is forever “Go Leafs Go”, while we wish only good things for the favorite who left us.

8 comments:

  1. Long suffering Leaf fanJanuary 14, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Mike, I remember March 3rd 1970, as if it was yesterday. It was the day after my 11th birthday. I was descending down the stairs sleeping eye, with the kitchen radio blaring in the background, and having thoughts of hating going to school, to only have my mother intercept me with the bad news of Tim Horton being traded to the Rangers. To her surprise I wasn't overly upset (there was a pain in my heart... it also was odd seeing him wearing number 3 for the Rangers) for I was glad that Horton got a chance to end his career with a Stanley Cup contender. Like you hated the fact when Dorey was traded to the Rangers...not a very good trade. Jarry was borderline. I was upset in 74 when Rick Kehoe was traded to Pittsburgh for Blaine Stoughton and a pick. Like you almost lost it when Lanny was traded! Even though, have to admit, I did like Wilf Paiement, but not for McDonald!! After that, just rolled my eyes when Williams, Palmateer, Turnbull, Sittler, Boschman, Paiement, Thomas, Vaive, Damphousse, and Clark were traded. And no doubt will do the same if the day comes when Luke Schenn is traded. Why is it that we cannot draft and allow a player to retire as a Leaf???

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  2. Great post, Long Suffering. Yes, the Lanny deal was awful. Paiement was a fine player, but that wasn't the point. Lanny was a real Maple Leaf. Made no sense, other than Imlach trying to show up Sittler.

    Every name you mentioned has some meaning for me. Good stuff. Thanks.

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  3. I hated to see Bob Nevin and Dick Duff go to the Rangers. But we did get Andy Bathgate in return although he was pretty well done soon after.

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  4. I'd be upset to see Schenn go. He has become one of my favourite players although his play hasn't been what we have come to expect. He is still engaging though what people seem to not realize as he is 9th in hits (133 - Martin leads with 182). I believe he could develop into a Scott Stevens type still with less PIM.

    Kadri could be a guy I can live with losing. He has played much better this time around but JVR (as rumoured) also plays LW.

    Kulemin was rumoured to be on Philly's radar in the off-season in a Richards deal. Although Kulemin is completely off his game, I still feel he could be a solid second line or even 1st line winger in the league. I would be disappointed to see Kulemin go.

    But it is all business.

    On the positive, no one has ever played as well after leaving Toronto recently. Stempniak, Stajan, Mayers, Wellwood, Coco, Hagman, Blake, Antropov, Ponikarovsky, McCabe, and Kaberle.

    Steen and White have done the best since leaving. White has struggled until becoming Lidstorm's sidekick this year. Steen's production has only slightly increased but has never played as many games in one season as he did here. He also benefited from STL injuries that last 2 seasons. I was disappointed when he left Toronto but it has worked out for us.

    Believe in Burke, he hasn't disappointed yet on the trade front and his only questionable signings were probably Komisarek and Beauchmin, based on salary. Armstrong I thought was paid about 500k more than he should have ($2.5M instead of his $3M) but not even to cry about.

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  5. Long suffering Leaf fanJanuary 14, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    The Rangers did it to us again for the third time on home ice! Kessel and Lupul were non-existence for 2 game now with a minus 4. The big guns are scoreless in 3. Clearly Burkie needs to get a big physical center who can relieve them of some heat. Hate to say this, but if the Leafs play the Rangers or Bruins in the play offs it will be a very short series,,,if not embarrassing.

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  6. Thanks for that, Skill2Envy. We probably have to throw Versteeg on the list as an ex-Leaf who has gone on to do well- if he continues to perform in Florida...

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  7. I forgot about Versteeg. His tenture was short lived and not memorable. Good on Burke to quickly realize he wasn't working. Glad to see Versteeg doing well, I like him.

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  8. ReAlly great post yet again. Emotional and factual. Great combo.

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