The Plight of a Leafs Fan
Being a Leafs fan is probably one of the most difficult things to do in my life. I love being a fan, but I also hate it. My friend Adam says it best.
This could be an exaggeration, but it really hasn’t been for the last few horribly depressing years. The 2012-2013 season was the first time in 8 years that we made it into the playoffs. One of the greatest hockey markets in the world was having trouble making it into the top half of teams in the NHL. And it’s not even top half – the East is much weaker than the West, so I guess you could say that the Toronto Maple Leafs have a hard time being below average.
Against the New Jersey Devils (a loss), Phil scored the second goal, which gave every Leafs fan a bit of hope. Then this happened:
He was fine, but you have to understand: as a lifelong Leafs fan, watching our best player since Mats Sundin hit his head on the boards like that made me think “Of course. This is why we suck.” I seriously thought he had a concussion that would hold him out for the rest of the season. Considering our luck, it wouldn’t have been an outlandish thought.
So far, in this terrible stretch of games, we have lost 5 games in a row, and we’re about to play St. Louis, probably the favourite to win it all this year. 2014 could be a repeat of 2012, when the team literally wilted like a dying flower. By the end of that season, I couldn’t watch hockey anymore. It was miserable to be reminded of my own miserable team.
I swear, I’m not usually a pessimistic person. I’m actually quite optimistic about almost everything, but the team I love continually beats me to the ground. The metaphor I just used about the dying flower? That also applies to me, watching the Leafs play every night and lose.
And not even just on the scoreboard. There have been many times this year when we really didn’t deserve to win, save for the brilliancy of Jonathan Bernier or James Reimer. Reimer, who Leafs fans are criticizing as if he punted a small child. The same man who gave his team a chance to win a round in the playoffs last year and almost put them in the playoffs the year before.
And you know what – those games that we didn’t deserve to win; they didn’t feel that shitty at the time.
But thinking about them now, I’m thankful as hell that we have those wins, but I’m also a bit upset. The way the team plays just seems wrong. Bernier, on average, gets peppered with 32.6 shots a game. Reimer gets 30.4 shots. Is it Carlyle’s fault? Maybe, but I won’t point any fingers.
Obviously, this team has a seriously flawed defence. And yes, Reimer has not been playing his best hockey recently, but his confidence has also been shot. Then mean “fans” stomped on the remaining pieces. Maybe it’s time to move him, but to where? The return will probably be subpar for someone of his quality.
Then there was the horrendous Clarkson signing, one that nobody liked. Clarkson’s goal scoring ability has never been consistent, and his career high (30) was something that he never came close to repeating (and it’s not looking like he will repeat that any time soon). At best, he was going to be worth the deal.
I don’t hate Clarkson, either. I admire his hustle, and really do enjoy watching him when he’s not playing badly. I love that he loved the Leafs growing up, and that he’s dreamed of playing here ever since. But does it make sense that he, a glorified grinder at this point, should be making 5 million until he’s 36?
I could mention John Ferguson Jr. and rip on him for another thousand words, but I’m willing to focus on the now, as Tim Lieweke so desires. But when the now is as bad as it seems at this moment, what do we, the patient Leafs fans, do? We are in danger of missing the playoffs again. And Leafs fans are about to bash their heads against a steel hammer.