I already don’t like this Tim Leiweke guy.
I mean, he has this background as a “winning” executive from Los Angeles (Lakers, Kings, Galaxy). How much he had to do with any of that success and those championships, I have no idea. I know he wasn’t the GM or coach of any of those teams, he wasn’t a scout—and didn’t sign the cheques as the owner—so I have my doubts as to his real “value” when it came to the actual success of those teams on the field of play.
But that’s not any kind of analysis, I realize, and not necessarily a fair assessment. While acknowledging that point of view is perhaps a bit arbitrary, my initial response to what I see of him continues to be, well, not good. He clearly presents as one of these trouble-shooter guys who always blows into town with all the answers for what ails the franchise he is now running, as though no one else has thought out any of this stuff before him.
It’s awfully arrogant, but that’s fine. It's not like we haven't heard this all before from any number of guys who have been running the Leafs, the Raptors and TFC in recent years (hey, we had to listen to Richard Peddie all those years—how did that go for fans?), so I expect the new guy to be self-impressed and pat himself on the back a lot, while trying mightily to pretend he is not doing precisely that.
This guy wants to win, he says. Great, join the rest of us who have been here a lot longer than you, fella. He apparently has a parade route mapped out for the Leafs when they next win the Cup. What a novel idea. Good for him. Hopefully he can fix some important social and political issues while he is in town, too. (I wonder if he helped solve traffic congestion in LA while he was running everything down there? It sure sounds like he deserves a lot of credit for stuff that happened when he was in LA…)
In truth, this nagging negative feeling I have has been building since I first heard Leiweke speak when he was hired. And the feeling has not gotten any better over time.
But today, what I mostly care about is one comment I saw from him this week, and it is this: he is evidently having all the old photos from the glory days of the Leafs in the 1960s taken down from the halls of the Air Canada Center.
Why? He apparently wants the current players to know that they are the team’s “legacy”, or at least that they are creating it now. He doesn't want them walking by pictures of players from fifty years ago.
What kind of thinking is this?
Let me be clear: the Maple Leafs have not won a Cup since 1967, but I can guarantee you that it has nothing to do with the pictures that hang in the halls in the ACC, or Maple Leaf Gardens before that.
Surely this guy is kidding. That’s his big plan to turn the franchise around? Get rid of the old pictures, and turn your back, in that sense at least, on the legacy that those great players helped build upon, a legacy that had started with Conn Smythe (and later his son Stafford, right) going all the way back to the early 1930s?
Look, I get that we’re talking about pictures. It’s “only” a bunch of old photos. But here again is a guy blowing into town who hasn't got a clue about the team’s heritage and history, other than what some public relations person is likely now telling him (if he even cares enough to ask about our heritage).
I wonder how many games Leiweke attended at the Gardens in the ‘60s? He wasn’t around, you say? I guess that means those days don’t matter any more—because Mr. Fix-it wasn’t part of it, and neither were today’s players, most of whom will be gone sooner than later based on the way the NHL is run these days.
So here we go again. We have another egocentric blowhard in place that will try to say all the right things publicly about patience, leadership, teamwork and all that, but it’s really about his vision, his “plan”.
And don’t cross him, or you’ll be out on your ear. Enjoy singing from the same hymn book, Dave Nonis. And because you have so far (unlike that Colangelo fellow with the Raptors), you’ll get a contract extension.
Here’s the message I am hearing from Leiweke: don’t respect the past, just focus on the present, eh?
Let’s create a culture of winning now—as though no one has thought of that before (sigh), and as though that culture has never been in place here.
The Leafs still matter precisely because of their history that started with the Smythes. If it weren’t for the unbelievable legacy of that family and the Leaf coaches and players in those great decades, including the ‘60s, would the Leafs still have the fan base they have now, more than 45 years since their last championship? I don’t think so.
If this Leiweke fellow somehow manages to (at least in his own mind) help the Leafs win a Cup, he will still have a long, long way to go to catch up with those who ran this team before him—when the Leafs were really good and winning championships. And the guys I’m thinking about, like Punch Imlach and King Clancy and players whose names many of you know already (and whose pictures, until now, have hung on the walls at the Gardens and the ACC), were actually part of the team, not a guy who sits upstairs and thinks he has all the answers.
For the record, there have also been some exceptional hockey people who have represented the Maple Leafs since the late ‘60s who didn’t quite get us to the ultimate prize, but they are individuals who are treasured parts of Leaf lore. Jim Gregory, Cliff Fletcher, Pat Burns, Pat Quinn. And plenty of outstanding players. They all continued to build the Leaf “brand” that this new person talks like he has to somehow revitalize.
I’m just another old guy fighting “progress” in Leafworld, I guess. So I’ll step back so you can have your say….