By Stan Smith
I was 12 years old when the Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup. In fact, it was watching that playoff run that got me hooked on the team. My dad was a Maple Leafs fan and I would watch bits and pieces of games with him, but it wasn’t until 1967 that I really began to take notice of the team.
Little did I know that time might be the only time I ever watched the Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup.
The Maple Leafs Have Had Some Bad Teams
In the past half a century I have witnessed some pretty bad teams. I lived through the Harold Ballard era. This team was in total denial that a salary cap was a possibility back in 2004; and, as a result, it was the worst-prepared team for the cap. For the next decade, this team might have been worse than it was back in the Ballard days.
It hasn’t been all bad. The best team I have ever seen this franchise ice was in the early nineties. I still feel to this day that Kerry Fraser robbed that team of a Stanley Cup. The early 2000s before the salary cap was also a good time for the Maple Leafs. I never felt they were a serious Cup contender, but they were good enough to get to the conference final on a consistent basis.
If You’re a Fan, You’re a Fan – Good or Bad
People ask “How can you watch such a bad team?” If you are a true fan, how good or bad the team is is not important. On the flip side, if someone switches teams as a fan I have to ask how good of a fan were you in the first place.
When the team was bad, expectations were not nearly what they are now. You expected the team to lose. When they did, you just shrugged it off. But, when they won, you felt elated.
Now, you expect the team to win. When they do there is no big elation following the game. But when they lose, you feel miserable.
Goals are also much easier to reach with a mediocre team. Not finishing last can be a goal. Still having a shot at making the playoffs with a month to go in the season can be a goal. Now anything less than first place in the regular season and winning the cup is regarded as a downer.
But That’s Not the Reason I Wish the Team Were Lousy Again
But, you know what? That is not the reason I wish this team was lousy again. I have arrived at the real reason after watching the first four preseason games.
I wish the Maple Leafs were a lousy team with low expectations because I want to see more of Matthew Knies, Fraser Minton, and Easton Cowan. In fact, I want to see them playing together on a line for the Maple Leafs full-time.
I wouldn’t care if they made rookie mistakes. They are simply exciting players to watch. It reminds me a lot of when Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander still played on the same roster. I wanted to see them all on the same line together back in 2016. Unfortunately, except for a few fleeting shifts, it never happened.
Knies This Season, Maybe Minten and Cowan Soon
I realize we will most likely get to see Knies on a regular basis and I look forward to that. But, Cowan and Minton will be heading back to their junior teams, which is probably better for their development. I would have looked forward to every time those three stepped on the ice though.
Hopefully, it will happen next season or the season after.