Spread The Joyous News

TORONTO (June 16) — This is a classic example of how the Toronto Maple Leafs know they can get away with anything… at any time. Leading off the Leafs page, late today, on the chat forum H–F Boards is the joyous headline “SPEZZA IS BACK!”. The first comment, from a person calling himself robertmac43: “Amazing news!” Farther down the page, other such comments as “Love it! Grown into one of my favorite Leafs.” And, “Fantastic!” Or, “great that he still wants to be a Leaf after everything. Now, they should bring back [defenseman Zach] Bogosian.”

I ask again: Is there an easier mark in all of professional sport than a Leafs fan? Just 2½ weeks after one of the most–humiliating playoff results in modern team annals… and all is forgotten. Jason Spezza is back. Huzzah! Not that he was primarily responsible, but did Spezza not suit up and take a regular shift while the Maple Leafs were collapsing against Montreal? Does it matter how many end–of–the–line players Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas re–sign to contracts if the Leafs are intent to sit on their failed post–season nucleus? That type of question, critical and mandatory, prevailed in Leafs Land for about five or six days after the Montreal embarrassment.

Now, it’s “yahoo! Jason is back! What about Bogosian?”

You think the timing of this announcement is coincidental? That Shanahan and Dubas — merely by chance — re–upped with one of the more–popular and faultless players so soon after the debacle against the Canadiens? Not on your life. For decades, the Leafs have deployed varying forms of subterfuge, knowing how absurdly simple it is to coerce their followers into amnesia. And, tragically, even those that cover the club in the mainstream media. Look at the lede in today’s Toronto Star article: “Jason Spezza is taking another run at the Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs.” The Stanley Cup? Doesn’t it require at least one playoff–round victory to begin challenging for the National Hockey League title? Next spring, if they qualify, the Leafs will be 18 years removed from advancing 25% of the way toward the championship. It will be 55 years since they last played for the silver mug. But, Jason Spezza is “taking another run” at the Cup. If it weren’t so utterly and completely bizarre, it would be humorous.


The only way to set the hockey bar lower in this city is to dig underground. Every day, all over town, ants and caterpillars walk on top of Leaf expectation. If this club — somehow, some way — fluked out an opening–round playoff triumph, police would have to close off traffic south of Bloor St. Now that vaccinations are helping us inch toward “herd” immunity from Covid–19, the multitudes would pour into the downtown streets as they haven’t since the Raptors’ victory parade 24 months ago. CP–24 news–copters would soar over downtown, beaming the joyous display into homes along the 401 corridor between London and Kingston. Yes, all of it for winning ONE PLAYOFF ROUND — the distorted, embellished reaction in a hockey mad city with no concept of playoff prosperity.

That’s why the Leafs know they can deflect attention from Montreal playing Vegas in the Stanley Cup semifinals by announcing that Jason Spezza is coming back. Not that an experienced general manager with a Stanley Cup resume, such as Jim Rutherford, is being hired to help the club untangle its salary cap ligature. Or that management will consider moving one of the beloved Big 4 to free up cap space and attempt to acquire a front–line defenseman, missing on the club for more than four decades. Rather, it’s deception, knowing that fans starved of any positive vibe will lap up the news that a fourth–line forward, complicit in the playoff fold–up against the Habs, is returning. Shanahan and Dubas are cradling the hockey public in the palm of their hands… just as the cantankerous Brian Burke once did; as silly Harold Ballard and washed up Punch Imlach once did. Etcetera.

If the playoff degradation against Montreal didn’t turn the tide of Leafs Nation for more than a week, nothing likely will. So, yes, prepare for the breathless news that Zach Bogosian is back on the blue line to “try for his second career Stanley Cup” with the Maple Leafs. I mean, what else is there?

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

16 comments on “Spread The Joyous News

  1. If he is healthy, Eichel for Marner. Trades about even dollars, gives Leafs another C, JT moves to 3C with Engvall and Mikeyhec. Trade Reilly for a top 6 winger+, sign FA Oleksiak and Bogosian type D… Hyman, Freddy and all other UFA walk and frees up some cash for B/U goalie and forward help. Dermott or Kerfoot get scooped by Seattle.
    Can Roberston, Sandin, Liljegren play regular NHL minutes?

    1. Some in-depth analysis, Allan. But, Marner for Eichel solves nothing. It’s essentially trading one $11 million salary for another. The Leafs need to unload one of their burdensome contracts.

  2. Another great article Howard. I know it wouldn’t make sense, but I think Spezza actually deserves to make a little more after last season’s performance.
    What happened to the Shanaplan? Wasn’t it supposed to be all about draft and develop? They got greedy with JT as you wrote about earlier this week.
    Is it time to start throwing jerseys and waffles onto the ice again? Heaven forbid they would listen to the fans.

  3. I am surprised at your comments Howard. If this this signing is a distraction it is only a distraction for a few minutes. Signing Spezza was a good move not just from a fan standpoint but also from a good player at minimum salary.

    If the Leafs plan on trading one of the big four do you actually think they would say that to a reporter? You keep info like that in house and maybe entertain offers to see if such a trade is viable. In regards to Rutherford, I would not mind if he was hired in a consultant capacity. Yes he put together some cup teams but he also has made poor trades and let first round draft choices go like they are nothing. He knew he would be long gone before the farm team went dry and his over priced free agents would be a anchor to the salary cap. I would be scared of him having complete control of this team at his age.

    1. The Leafs have already confirmed they won’t trade any of their Beloved 3 (Nylander, Marner, Matthews). And, you’re right: Rutherford, at 72, is too old. Lou Lamoriello, at 78, is not (sigh).

      1. You can’t reason with Leaf apologists Howard, most of them are fan boys who are already debating the off’season, BEFORE it’s even technically off season! We’re still in the semi finals for crying out loud, an these people are excited (EXCITED???) because SPEZZA is coming back? OY VEY!

  4. Just wait until the Leafs welcome fans back into the Scotia Bank Center with “special” post pandemic ticket prices, aka higher prices. Leaf fans will be thrilled to cheer on their heroes, whatever the price.

  5. Apparently Spezza said ” If I could take less I would”

    Sadly even if he played for free the cap situation would still be dire.

    The only option that makes sense, as painful as it would be would be, is to trade Marner acquire some cap relief. Then use those assets and cap space to acquire a top D and a player like a Connor Brown.

  6. You’re probably right about the timing of this signing Howard.
    Spezza wasn’t a difference maker, and at this stage is just a competent guy for the bottom of the line up. The idea that the core NEEDS Spezza to teach them about playoff urgency and the need to “elevate your game” is just offensive. If Mathews, Marner & Nylander don’t know that now as adults then they never will.
    Fiddling around the edges is just that and will not make a whit of difference to the fortunes of this poorly assembled collection of hockey players.
    Overpaid, anointed “star” players who arrogantly believe they can turn it on whenever they like and not deliver effort every game, a soft, contact-averse defence, 6 guys named Moe as the bottom half of the forward lines and a fragile goalie who late in his career as a seldom used back up is now expected to be an NHL starter behind all of the above. All this enthusiastically created, supported and promoted by a rookie GM and coach who, despite minimal experience are so confident in their ideas and plans they refuse to adjust tactics or strategy.
    I have a better chance of winning the lottery without buying a ticket that this group has of beating Tampa, Washington, Vegas or Colorado and probably several other teams in a 7 game series.
    I understand the concept of being a fan and having hope, but I’m not an idiot.

  7. Who said you need to build from the crease out to win a championship? Asked virtually every team that has won a Stanley Cup since forever.

  8. Why can a fan of the Leafs not feel puzzled about why we can’t win a playoff round while at the same time be happy that they make a move in signing a player who is they feel wants to be here and adds worth and value at his salary level and if you think Spezza was the problem on not winning I think you’re the one that needs to rethink.You can argue about big changes may need to be made at the top of the lineup in order to get value for the dollar and win in the playoffs but not at the bottom. And if you think leaf fans are easy to fool, what must you think about the fans of every other Canadian team who’s teams haven’t even come as close as the leafs did against Montreal or for that matter any of the other teams in the league who are no longer playing this year…Since winning the cup is the goal, then losing in the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd rounds make you no better off as far as reaching your goal…

  9. The hot dogs will go from 20.00 to 25.00 dollars, pizza slice 20 to 25, and a beer 20 to 25. And the suckers line up to pay.

  10. My only comment here is pro sports are a business. The customers of the Maple Leafs obviously enjoy the product as odd as that seems. But if the customers are happy and more importantly willing to pay exorbitant prices for it. Well why would management change?

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