I won't try to suggest that Leaf fans are as geared up about the Toronto Marlies advancing to the AHL Calder Cup finals as we would be if it was the Maple Leafs who were preparing for the NHL finals. But in the absence of the Leafs making that kind of headway just yet, a lot of folks are nonetheless pretty excited about what the Marlies are poised to achieve.
Though there is no real historical trend at play here that suggests Marlie success will ultimately translate into the Leafs having similar success, we naturally are hopeful that, at the very least, a number of the young Marlies will have an impact with the big team before too much more time passes.
Gardiner and Frattin are already full-time Leafs, but others may earn a ticket to the ACC by as early as next season—whether at the opening bell in October, or at some juncture throughout the course of the 23012-’13 NHL season.
Whether the Marlies overcome a pretty strong Norfolk Admirals side in a series that gets underway this coming Friday, I guess we’ll find out soon enough. But regardless, they have had an outstanding season. We all recognize that while Brian Burke has supplied the talent, head coach Dallas Eakins deserves immense credit for taking that talent and doing something not all minor-league coaches can do: work well with a young team, develop the promising talent, and win at the same time.
But here’s my question for today: while a big part of the equation here is that we are excited, as Leaf supporters, about what Marlie success could mean for the blue and white, how much of our current active cheering for the Marlies has to do with location?
Here’s what I mean: if you trace the history of the Maple Leaf organization, they’ve had farm teams forever, in various markets. I was corresponding with folks on Twitter the other day, and Sean @seandelville mentioned, for example, how the Leafs used to have an AHL team in Pittsburgh that won the Calder Cup in the early 1950s.
We all understand that an organization’s “farm team” generally supplies important prospects to the big club. That pipeline is important for every NHL franchise. But let’s face it, most of the time fans of the NHL club don't generally pay a lot of attention to their minor-league team. Oh, they care in the sense that they may follow the so-called “top prospects” in the organization, but beyond that, there isn’t much emotional investment. The attachment is just not the same as it is with the NHL team.
Now, when it comes to the Marlies, did we care as much when they were located in St. John’s? Would we be as excited now if the Toronto Marlies were still the St. John’s Marlies? Or is a lot of the current excitement stemming from the fact that the Marlies are a “Toronto” team, and that it’s been a long time (as we all know) since Toronto has had a hockey champion (Canadian University hockey and the old Junior “A” Marlies aside)?
Send your thoughts along…