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Mainstream media optimism around the Leafs the usual fare

The mainstream hockey media is funny in Toronto.  At this time of year, they buy pretty much everything the team is selling, and the headlines and resultant stories usually tell a glowing tale of improvement and optimism.  I’ve been seeing this since I first came to the Toronto area as a university student in the early 1970s. And some years, those hopes turn to despair pretty quickly.

But hey, training camp is nothing if not a time of hope.  We talk about that often here, too.

And that’s fine, on the one hand.  Fans need to hear and read about the good things that the organization has done, even the tired and familiar quotes about how players are in “better shape than last year”, or “how this year’s camp is much better than last year’s…”, or “the talent level is so much better…”, etc.  We are all accustomed to hearing returning players make comments such as "I've added more muscle" over the summer or "I changed my workout routine so I'll be quicker...".  

It's all part of the fall routine.  And the beat writers, who need to file a story every day, lap it up because it's easy- if all too familiar.

Fair enough.

But the same media people are the first to turn the knife when the team (which has been the case in recent years) fails to live up to the pre-season hype and  lofty “expectations”.

It’s the nature of things.  Understood.

Myself, I received a couple of notes from readers this week, suggesting my recent article entitled “Every game a try-out doesn’t apply in Toronto anymore” was too negative.  I found that interesting because I’ve always tried to present a balanced perspective here—the good, the hopeful and also what’s realistic, from my point of view.  I just thought it was interesting that the Leaf brass was clearly saying there were virtually no spots open on the team this year, when all last year they ran ads saying “Every game is a try-out”.

Ironic, or something, I thought.

To be clear:  None of us likes reading negative stuff all the time about our team, whether in the daily newspapers or on the internet.  The easiest thing in the world to do is simply criticize the Leafs all the time.  We all do it sometimes, I suppose.

Not having a championship team for 45 years makes being critical a bit easier, eh?

But my “job” here, as I see it, is to try to provide one person’s perspective on the Leaf situation.  I post pretty much every day.  It’s not a humor site, or a stats site. I don't do predictions or a lot of research.  I simply share stories about my memories of the old days and when it comes to the current Leafs, try to assess things with an awareness of what has come before. (Certain “movies”, as I like to say, I’ve seen over and over again, including the optimism that abounds annually at this time of year in Leafland…)  This means there will be times when I, like any of you, will love what the team, or certain players, are doing, and times when I don't.  In either situation, I just comment on what I see, and what I sense is going on, good or not so good.

Do we remember last year, for example, that Wilson saw the Leafs as a playoff team (as Burke does now)?  And when Wilson said that the power play was “scary good”?

Neither comment stood the test of time.  And that’s fine.  I want our coach and our GM to be bullish on the team, to believe in the roster they have created - and that Wilson will teach and lead for the next 8 months.

But I can’t ignore reality, or neglect to call out the organization if or when I believe they are off-base, inconsistent, or simply “spinning”.  (Perhaps not surprisingly, when I put on my hopeful, optimistic hat about the Leafs, some people say I'm looking at the team through rose-colored glasses...) 

We’re all fans.  Some see the glass as half-empty, others as half-full.  It’s the same glass.  Sometimes fans change their mind the very same day.  It’s all in how we look at it.

And as I often say, that's the fun of being a fan.  We can disagree.  And that's why I always welcome your comments.  All I ask is they be respectful, as I try to be in my posts.


  1. I share your "optimism-tempered-by-experience" state of mind. I'm not blindly a fan - just seen too many "movies" over the years. I'm often amazed - both here and on other sites - how the slightest doubt or criticism is jumped on by some fans as being too "negative". I don't see fandom as being unquestioned support - just an irrational loyalty! It's an interesting question to consider why fans are so loyal - but maybe that's for another post.

  2. Gerund O'...Thanks for the supportive comments- especially appreciated from someone who has also been around for a while.

    Being honest with one's views is not "negative". Using our experience to temper sometimes over-the-top optimism is not negative, either.

    I really like your reference to fan loyalty. I'll think on that for a future post, for sure.

  3. My feeling is usually the same- in life, what people say is not particularly relevant, what they do IS. If BB has recorded a commercial for the Marlies with the catch-phrase "Every Game Is A Tryout", that's great. It's technically true, but beyond that, the realities of injuries on the big club, cap and waiver considerations, etc, are all factors when a Marlies roster player gets a shot. If Wilson is recorded yakking about the "scary good" power play, I just don't care- either it improves significantly under his eye or it doesn't, which proves my point that words are just words. I'm as excited as the next person for this season because I see a slowly but steadily increasing talent level for the Leafs and in our prospects- Hockey's Future and most other serious sources agree. But the ONLY thing that matters to me is their actual on-ice performance and whether they win or not. All the rest is just window-dressing, cake icing or whatever. That it provides fodder and opportunity for journos and bloggers is great, (otherwise this site, Michael's hobby and my opportunity to talk about it wouldn't exist) but it's not the game itself. That we live in a media/information driven age has it's drawbacks, and the over-valuing of what is simply talk and nothing more regarding our beloved Leafs is one of them.
    And for the record, I don't think Michael was being too negative. His track record is one of a deep love for the team that finds expression in historical reminiscing, off-the-cuff and/or day-to-day observations and a passion for providing a little place in the Barilkosphere with a unique flavour.
    Be yourself, Michael, and keep doing what you do. It's why we're here. There are others who take a brutally honest "negative" perspective on the Leafs, some of them highly credible individuals like Michael Forbes, and that's great, too. It's just not your style and I think the tone of the post in reference slightly surprised a few readers.

  4. Very well said, KidK. (And on a personal level, thank you for supportive comments.)

    You are absolutely correct. What any of us "say", including the players themselves, doesn't matter. It's what a team does on the field of play. But if we can accept that this is the way things are in this media age- when radio stations have 24 hours of sports talk to fill daily, a lot of it, by necessity, won't be much than just layering one relatively un-informed opinion on top of another. The time has to be filled somehow. And that's just fine, if we all see that for what it is.

  5. I have to say Michael, that I think it was very important for you to post an article like this, following your last one. I've been reading your articles here for probably a little over a year now and had only posted comments as an "Anonymous" reader. But the other day I felt it was important to put my name behind what I was saying so that it gave it more emphasis, and simply because I wanted to garner respect from you.

    The beauty about your site is that you don't do any research, or analyze stats, there is far too much of that elsewhere. I love hearing your opinions and viewpoints because it is very obvious you are an intelligent and well-seasoned Toronto Maple Leafs fan, with an absurd amount of knowledge to offer. That is why I read, and enjoy your articles.

    You have also recognized that opinions are up for debate, and healthy ones are always fun. You were honest with your opinion the other day, as was I. I'm glad you mentioned respect, because that is what it is all about.

    Looking forward to the next article Michael, thanks for writing.

  6. Jack...sincere thanks for taking the time to post here. I appreciate that you have been following for a while.

    I was chatting with one of my adult sons today about the blog, and what I was trying to "accomplish", if I can put it that way. You have captured exactly why I try to write as I do.

    A comment like yours make this worthwhile. Thank you.

  7. Well I certainly agree with the other guys today. I love the Maple Leafs but have played and watched enough hockey (going on 40 years) to know they are not a good team yet. That is not to say they aren't going in the right direction, I think they are.

    What I don't get is why you are being negative just for stating that fact and it is a fact. The Leafs as currently constructed have done absolutely squat. Yes some players had good years last year, but the hallmark of a great player is having good years, year after year.

    You can cheer for a team and hope for the best, but reality has to at least be aknowledged.

    Just to let you know Michael, I happen to think you have one of the best Leaf sites on the net. I don't want to read about stats and numbers I want to hear what other people think about the Leafs and debate them as well as express my own views. The fact that you do it politely as well as articualatey is a very welcome bonus.

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wilbur. We're on the same page, for sure.

    And I appreciate your kind words.