It’s a stat that never ceases to put a smile on my face because I’ve been conditioned since childhood to hate the Leafs.
Remember when the Vancouver Sun ran a special supplement after 1994 with the giant headline ‘Hey, At Least We Beat the Leafs’?
They’ve since moved to the Eastern Conference over a decade ago but every game against the Leafs brings something special to the table.
My favourite recent game against the self-proclaimed centre of the universe came almost two years ago when the Canucks were in Toronto.
The Leafs stormed out to a 3-0 lead and chased Luongo from the game only for the Sedins to claw the team back from the brink and take it 5-3.
Then Canuck and ex-Leaf Andrew Raycroft was perfect in two periods of relief and took the opportunity to rub in every Leaf fan’s face.
5 reasons to hate the Leafs? Only 5?
1. Nion Dion
Let’s start with the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dion Phaneuf. You may remember Phaneuf from the Calgary Flames and Jarkko Ruutu’s finest hour as a Canuck.
Well he’s been a Leaf for a while now since coming over in what apparently was the greatest trade for the Leafs since the acquisition of Dougie Gilmour.
They say that because on his first day with the Leafs he went into the locker room and turned the stereo up. Somehow, that denoted leadership skills and got him the C.
But he’s still the Dion Phaneuf we all know and love to hate. He’s still riding credit from one rookie season and still overpaid. Look at these pictures and tell me they don’t perfectly follow his career trajectory. It’s enough to drive someone to booze and Billy Joel.
In a 2010 Sports Illustrated survey, Phaneuf was named the league’s most overrated player in a league-wide survey.
He got three times as many votes as any other player.
Yet somehow the Leafs are perfectly content with Calgary’s sloppy seconds.
You may also be familiar with Brian Burke. He’s the guy who Leafs fans insist built this current incarnation of the Canucks just because he drafted a majority of the core players.
His assistant GM is Dave Nonis, who of course traded for Luongo and then kindly missed the playoffs so Mike Gillis could be hired.
As bad as Dave Nonis was, and he had a famously horrific offseason where he sat on his hands instead of doing the necessary and overhauling the offence, he also accomplished in his first few months on the job what Burke couldn’t: find a goalie.
As good as the West Coast Express was, it was never going anywhere with Dan Cloutier, Felix Potvin, or Kevin Weekes. How many goalies has he shuffled through during his stint in Toronto?
Brian Burke’s greatest success came from inheriting a very good Anaheim Ducks team and recognizing that Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer might play well together and for that he is the best GM in the league™.
This would also be where I mention the Kessel trade but I’m going to talk more about Thrillho later and besides I’m afraid if I go on any longer about Burke, he’ll challenge me to a bar fight.
But yeah Phil Kessel aka The Awkward One™ and owner of the league’s most punchable face.
Famously picked last at the All-Star Game, Kessel came over in a bungled trade that unwittingly put Tyler Seguin in Boston.
The butt end of jokes for years, I hate him even more now that’s actually living up to his potential but it should just make for even greater satisfaction when he falls back down to earth.
Anyway here is a video of Mattias Ohlund nailing Kessel in his debut with the Leafs. Mattias Ohlund: Forever A Canuck.
4. Rogers Media
You may have heard about the recent sale of the Toronto Maple Leafs to a partnership of Bell and Rogers media.
What does this mean? Well, the Toronto Sports Networks jokes will now ring true as both TSN and Sportsnet will no doubt ramp up their coverage of the Leafs in order to protect their financial interests.
This is probably why I had to endure a 4 minute puff piece on Jake Gardiner’s love of Justin Bieber on a ferry yesterday. Not even the revelation that Ron Wilson is a huge Drake fan could save me from trying to swallow my own tongue.
Phaneuf apparently just likes anything that can be turned up loud.
There could be a silver lining if the team’s profile on Hockey Night in Canada, now the only media outlet in Canada without a stake in the Leafs, is lowered enough to return Jim Hughson to Canucks games and puts Mark Lee out to his deserved pasture but is that really worth increased coverage of a mediocre team in every other facet of your life?
This Christmas, expect to see Phil Kessel’s rum ball recipe everywhere you go.
Finally the Canucks and Leafs share a rivalry in futility. Since the Canucks entered the league, neither have won the cup though one of those teams has made the finals three times. Hint: It’s not the Leafs.
The Leafs have the advantage of technically winning multiple cups during a six-team era, but that hasn’t stopped the fanbases from wanting that Cup that will put them over the rest of Canada.
Add in increased mobility between both cities, and you have a recipe for truculence.
But its not just the fanbases.
Burke and Nonis understandably have a few grudges with the organization and have acted on them a few times.
Burke was enroute to Sweden when Gillis resigned the Sedins and Wilson’s comments a week prior about wanting them on the team initiated a league investigation into tampering.
And of course we all remember Mats Sundin and Kyle Wellwood.
So even with the disparity in the standings and the 8 year run of dominance it should be a fantastic game when these two teams collide.