Recently, I have begun to read Al Gore's latest piece of supposed non-fiction, titled The Assault on Reason. His basic premise, from what I gather thus far, is this: why is it that reason, logic and truth play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important policy decisions? As I am not finished reading the book, I am unsure of his conclusions. Nonetheless, it is an intriguing thesis and one which started me thinking about how logic and reason has come to play a limited role in the sports sphere as well. Nowhere is this more evident than with the current state of affairs displayed by widely loved-and perhaps even more widely despised-Toronto Maple Leafs.
For those who do not follow hockey religiously, here is the story: the Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup in the last 40 or more years and have iced some of the worst teams in hockey history. Over this same 40-year span, the Leafs have acrimoniously parted ways with some of their most beloved players in franchise history, such as Dave Keon, Lanny McDonald and Darryl Sittler and have failed to take any sort of meaningful step toward perennial contender status, save for two conference finals appearances in '93 and '02. Things over at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment reached a new boiling point last month when much maligned General Manager John Ferguson Jr. was canned, leaving head coach Paul Maurice and the rest of the team on the hot seat for the remainder of the season. In the absence of some miracle, the team will miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year this season and will have further frustrated their loyal and long-suffering fans. With Cliff Fletcher at the helm of the franchise on an interim basis, questions are abound in the media as to what the Leafs will do to change the atmosphere surrounding the team and bring the Buds back to glory. This is where the altered Al Gore thesis comes into play: why does it seem that reason and logic play a limited role in the hockey operations of the Toronto Maple Leafs? The Leafs have done nothing in recent memory that resembles logic and it appears they are following this trend again, despite a supposed recognition of needed change in team management.
The fact of the matter is the Leafs are a bad team, both on paper and on the ice. Their development system lacks any surefire prospects and the big club is full of support type players thrust into starring roles. Their best asset, Mats Sundin, appears hellbent on remaining with the team, despite knowing full well what his trade would net the team in return. This is where Fletcher needs to introduce reasoning to his club. The team needs to re-tool regardless of the desires of President Larry Tanenbaum or the others residing on the board of governors at MLSE. They need to stockpile young talent and accept the fact that being a weak team for a year or two will lead to greater gains in the long run through the draft and cap flexibility. Mats Sundin needs to go, regardless of the Captain's seemingly noble intention to go down with the ship. The status quo can not continue to be maintained by MLSE just because it has been profitable. Now is the time for the Leafs to wake up and build a team that Leafs fans can once again be proud of.