The Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the Original 6 teams, have been around the National Hockey League (NHL) for far longer than I’ve been. The team has faced its fair share of challenges and criticisms. And things didn’t get easier last week when they fell to the Florida Panthers in five games.
In many ways, the Maple Leafs outplayed the Panthers for large portions of the play, but they just couldn’t score enough to carry themselves to the series win. That situation has generated even more grumbling from both Toronto fans and the media.
The Purpose of This Post About Maple Leafs’ Fans
To set the context, as an old academic researcher, in this post, I’m going to do something that I haven’t done before as a Maple Leafs’ writer. However, it’s something I have done hundreds of times as a researcher. I look at data, deconstruct it, and organize what I find to answer questions.
In this post, my data source was to seek what Maple Leafs’ fans were frustrated about. I theorized that one place fans can address their issues is in the discussion sections of hockey posts written by those who cover the team. So I read a number of posts, collected the readers’/fans’ responses, and organized them into themes.
This post shares my organization about what frustrates Maple Leafs’ fans based on the comments that they made in their responses to posts written about the issues with the Maple Leafs.
Hockey Blogs or Posts Generate a Lot of Discussion from Fans
Many of the large hockey blogs or sites generate dozens of responses and discussions about the topic written about. Then, the readers share – back and forth – their ideas about the authors generated in their posts. Sometimes those discussions add insights to the posts and sometimes they go off on different lines of thinking – whatever the fans have to say.
The information that I’ve collected here was generated by fans/readers of a number of blogs I read last night as I was reading about what the Maple Leafs might do with general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe.
To collect my data/responses, specifically, I chose two large blogs both (at the time of my reading late last night) had more than 50 comments from readers. I did not de-select any comment and only ignored those without much substance – sort of “I agree.” or “Good point.” or “What were you thinking when you said that?” kind of stuff.
Then I shaped them all into the topics I thought they spoke about. As you will see, they explore a wide range of issues that the fans either believe were worthy of discussion or that fans believed should be engaged as extra ideas to the posts.
The Issues Fans Believe Are Crucial for the Maple Leafs
The main issues that fans/readers have raised are not surprising. They fall into areas about the team’s performance, management decisions, and overall outlook. Here are the concerns expressed by those Maple Leafs’ supporters as they consider their team’s ongoing struggles.
Section One: Frustration About the Maple Leafs’ Play
Frustration One: As a Team, Their Maple Leafs Lack Heart and Grit
Fans obviously were unhappy with the team’s playoff performance. They voiced their disappointment in the team’s perceived lack of heart, grit, and passion in those playoff games. They criticized the Maple Leafs for performing admirably in the regular season but failing to maintain the same level of intensity when it mattered most.
Who do fans blame for the problems? The answer is the team’s core of players. That included the team’s stars like Auston Matthews and John Tavares, both who were singled out for underwhelming playoff performances.
Frustration Two: The Core Players Were Unable to Deliver
Fans added more about the specific inability of the team’s Core Four players (Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and both Matthews and Tavares), to perform at their best during crucial moments. In fact, fans seem befuddled or exasperated.
Many comments wondered how these core players, who were expected to lead the team to success, could fail so often. Fans then expressed their criticism about the team’s stars not rising to the occasion in high-pressure playoff situations.
Frustration Three: Disappointment in the Team’s Overall Performance
That the Maple Leafs did not meet expectations or deliver postseason success left fans “disillusioned.” Yet again, fans commented on the team’s regular-season achievements but noted their repeated failure in the playoffs. At this point, the fans’ recurring disappointment has led many to doubt that their team is truly a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.
Section Two: Frustration About the Maple Leafs’ Leadership
Frustration Four: Questions About Dubas’ Management and Keefe’s Coaching Decisions
Many fans questioned the decisions made by General Manager Kyle Dubas and Head Coach Sheldon Keefe. They believe the team’s underperformance should be addressed by a change in management or management strategy (mostly, dump the management).
Many readers suggested that Dubas is not the right person to lead the team. As well, fans questioned Keefe’s coaching decisions. Both Dubas and Keefe were questioned about the team’s player personnel choices and the overall team strategy. Fans believed these were partly to blame for the Maple Leafs’ redundant shortcomings.
Section Three: Frustration About the NHL’s Treatment of the Maple Leafs
Frustration Five: Displeasure with Refereeing and Biased Officiating
One interesting set of topics that fans brought up – often without being a part of the main topic of the post – was the criticism they directed toward the NHL’s officiating. Several fans expressed frustration over perceived biased calls and penalties that have gone against the Maple Leafs.
Some readers’ responses suggested that the Maple Leafs have been on the receiving end of unfair treatment, pointing out instances where penalties were not called against opposing teams – even on the goal that ended the Round 2 series. These controversies fueled discussions around the integrity of the game.
Frustration Six: Complaints about NHL and Rule Enforcement
In a topic in the same vein, but I thought was slightly different, fans shared their grievances with the NHL’s handling of suspensions and rule enforcement, as well as their perceived inconsistencies in officiating.
Some fans even voiced their belief that the league’s playoffs lacked fairness, which undermined the integrity of the game. Readers’ complaints focused on their desire that the NHL address concerns about its officiating standards and ensure a level playing field for all teams.
Frustration Seven: Conspiracy Theories Against Canadian Teams
Even more interesting was that a group of fans departed from on-ice issues to explore what many believed is a conspiracy theory that the NHL privileges US-based teams over Canadian teams. Readers believe that includes the Maple Leafs.
Fans shared their belief that their own Maple Leafs faced disadvantages and mistreatment by the NHL. These theories focused on the perception that Canadian teams did not receive fair treatment compared to their American counterparts. For readers, the lack of success for any Canadian teams in recent years only adds fuel to the conspiracy theories and further fuels frustrations among fans.
Section Four: The Maple Leafs as a Target for Trolls
One interesting thing about the Maple Leafs is that the team is a regular target for Trolls. Maple Leafs’ fans are loyal; as well, those other fans who hate the Maple Leafs do seem to hate them.
I never can understand why some “fans” (there might be a better word than fans) might take the time to taunt those who are feeling low about their team’s losses. Sure, quietly enjoy when another team you don’t like loses, but taking the time to taunt others? Odd.
The Maple Leafs have their fair share of stone-throwers. And these “trolls” find their way into the discussions of posts. Every once in a while, there was a “drive-by” stone thrown at the frustration of Maple Leafs’ fans – a general mocking. For example, these trolls have created nicknames for the Toronto team which include the “Make Beliefs” and the “Maple Laughs.”
As I read them, I don’t believe these were Maple Leafs fans making fun of themselves or their own team. They were outsiders who seemed to want to “trespass” into a Maple Leafs’ conversation simply to mock and poke fun.
Again, it’s odd to me that people can find the time to mock others. These trolls probably think it’s all good-natured ribbing. I’m thinking it’s not.