It’s Elementary: Marner Has To Go

TORONTO (May 31) — I will emphasize the point once more, primarily because, since 2021, I’ve been close to 100 percent accurate about the Corpse–4 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That under no circumstance could the Leafs prevail in the Stanley Cup chase with their regular–season superstars fading in the clutch. Look it up. All of my blogs are on file here. There’s 100 of them wondering why the Leafs cannot see what the rest of the hockey world does. So, I’ll put it bluntly: Nothing — and I mean absolutely nothing — fundamental about the club can change if it brings back Mitch Marner on a long–term deal to stay with fellow playoff lightweights Auston Matthews and William Nylander. It will simply be an extension of the past eight playoff years, in which the Maple Leafs have won but a single round. Moreover, and more ominously, it will show that the new Chief Executive Officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Keith Pelley, was blowing smoke out his backside at the wrap–up media gathering. When he all–but assured that a systematic amendment was on the horizon. Even Brendan Shanahan, hopelessly wed to the Corpse–4 from the outset, spoke about significant change. None of which can remotely occur if Marner, Matthews and Nylander stay together beyond next season, when Marner’s current pact expires.

Remember where you keep reading this.

It funnels unstoppably toward the most–basic question: How can something change if it doesn’t… change?

In the past three playoff years, following the Montreal pandemic debacle, the Leafs have stubbornly tried to counter the obvious. With predictable results. Now… finally… at last… before they start to look really, really stupid… the tall thinkers have yelled “uncle!” Why it took so long is a mystery only until you consider the amnesia that envelops this hockey market within hours of the latest playoff disaster. The poor, hapless fans have no choice but to regroup and cross their fingers. Or, find another favorite team. The mainstream media, on the other hand, should have no emotional connection to the club at any time, but particularly after repeated failure at Stanley Cup time. Still, most of those who cover the Leafs cannot let go. Just as ownership and management clings to a losing hand, so, too, does the media. Kevin McGran, the veteran hockey writer at the Toronto Star, can barely pound out an article without the phrase “run it back” in the headline (see below for evidence). Others have also tiptoed around the notion of splintering the Corpse–4, as if there’s a hidden mystery about the underachieving group.

It’s been nearly a friggin’ decade, folks. Pause for a moment and think about that. When has a team in any sport, professional or amateur, provided the same nucleus nine consecutive chances to get it right?

Find me a single example other than the Leafs. Not two. Just one.

You will look forever.

ANOTHER ILLUSTRATION of this absurd media coddling appeared on David Alter’s ‘X’ page. I like David. We worked together for a number of years at The FAN–590, after which he became a self–made man. The National Post briefly hired him as a Leafs beat writer. As did The Athletic. Today, he is the lone media person to attend all 82 games during the season on behalf of The Hockey News/Sports Illustrated. Truth be known, I’m proud of him.

Perhaps that’s why I felt disappointed when Alter sent out this Tweet:

No, David, I disagree. Vehemently. Moreover, I submit that if you had stumbled upon Craig Berube and Marner in that coffee shop — and did not try to snap a clandestine photo — someone else should be doing your job.

I’ll say it again: It is not the media’s responsibility to cushion and insulate the Leafs. God knows the club accomplishes that chore without fail. Steve Keogh, the Leafs director of media relations, is paid handsomely to keep the players as far out of sight as possible. There is no need for the victimized party to join the party. Love it or hate it, we live in a 24–hour news cycle that encompasses every person on the planet with a mobile device. At any moment, someone previously unknown can accrue his or her five minutes of fame simply by being in the right place at the right time. That genre of reporting was introduced on television by TMZ, but long after The National Enquirer paved the road in print. Today, each and every one of us is a journalist. To tell a story is one thing. To tell it with visual evidence is quite another. And, we all have the capacity to obtain visual evidence via our I–Phones.

Famous people can no longer move effortlessly from place to place. Chances are, some person will notice them and attempt to snap a photograph. That’s just the way it is. If you can’t handle it, stay anonymous and out of sight.

Fact remains that whoever got close enough to Berube and Marner in that coffee shop without being noticed might be a better choice to cover the Maple Leafs than those currently employed. It is categorically pointless for David Alter, or any other paid member of the media, to protect his subjects. If you are out in public, there is no legal or moral expectation of privacy. Sports media is the last faction that should encourage such an environment.


In case you missed the news, Patricia Jaggernauth, formerly the uber–popular weather specialist at Toronto news station CP–24, has been vindicated after the Canadian Human Rights Commission found reasonable grounds to support her claim, from October 2022, of gender and racial discrimination. After resigning from CP–24, which is owned by Bell Media, Jaggernauth filed a complaint alleging a “systemic pattern” of racism, sexism and discrimination. In a confidential, 34–page report shared with the Toronto Star, the Commission found there was “reasonable basis” to support that Jaggernauth’s allegations could be related to her sex, race and color (she is of Guyanese and Jamaican ancestry). “I’ve been treated like a token and a commodity by CP–24 and Bell; passed over for promotions more times than I can count,” wrote Jaggernauth in her complaint. After the Commission’s finding, she followed with (on social media): “It’s been two years of people thinking [her complaint] wasn’t true.

“Two years of me fighting to get this final report. It’s validating.”

And, it comes on the heels of another embarrassment for the company that graciously presents “Let’s Talk Day” each January in support of mental and emotional health. Only to turn around, every time, and destroy numerous promising careers with heartless, unconscionable layoffs. For which the stuffed shirts that wield the axe are handsomely bonused. It presents a glaring and troublesome contradiction. The latest censure follows the odyssey of Lisa LaFlamme, the nighttime anchor of the CTV National News who replaced the legendary Lloyd Robertson. In late–summer of 2022, and seemingly out of nowhere, Bell and CTV terminated LaFlamme. It sparked the predictable firestorm and led to the vice–president of news, Michael Melling, taking a convenient “leave of absence” (Melling was eventually replaced). The move, according to the Star, “followed an independent review of the CTV National newsroom initiated in late August and conducted by leading employment lawyer Sarah Crossley.”

Rest assured, folks, that Rogers is no better than Bell. Not one iota. As someone who worked for the former, I was never more than an Employee Number. Nor was anyone else residing beneath the top floor of One Mount Pleasant Road. At least Rogers has the decency to not paper over its intentions with a national initiative toward mental health. That’s the annual, mid–winter domain of Bell… while its executioners plan the bloodletting.

MY BILL AND BILL STORIES: The death, this week, of Bill Walton brought to mind an encounter at the 1996 Summer Olympics with the UCLA basketball legend (Walton’s college teams won the first 73 games in which he played; that’s not a misprint). It was the first of five Olympics I covered in my 23 years at The FAN–590… and the only summer edition. I spent more than three weeks in the Atlanta sweatbox, but it remains among my most–treasured memories. The Main Press Center was in the heart of downtown (a building that still exists called the InForum), across from the newly created Centennial Olympic Park. Upon entering the InForum, a walk of 50 meters brought me to an escalator to the second floor, on which the giant media headquarters was stationed.

One morning, just before stepping onto the escalator, I noticed Walton coming down from the second floor on the opposite side (he worked as a basketball commentator for NBC). So, I loitered for 20 seconds until he arrived. I introduced myself to this gangly creature that appeared to soar over me. He swallowed up my hand in his and offered me that familiar, toothy grin. “I love your country,” he said about Canada. “I could live there in a heartbeat.”

Then he said so long. I never again saw him in person.

Another Bill made a brief appearance in Atlanta, practically shutting down the city while his motorcade traveled downtown from Hartsfield/Jackson Airport. And, fate decreed that I would encounter him as well. This Bill happened to be the sitting president of the United States. Bill Clinton dropped by one Saturday night at the swimming venue. Where I, rather coincidentally, had been assigned. After the competition, I filed a couple of reports to the radio station from an enormous tent that served as the venue press facility. Outside the tent was a large courtyard. At one point, I felt like getting a breath of air so I walked out of the tent and into the yard. Just as I arrived, I noticed Clinton approaching from maybe 25 meters to my left, surrounded by four, beefy Secret Service agents.

This would clearly and obviously be my only life’s chance to shake hands with an incumbent American president. If I got detained and tossed into a paddy wagon, so be it. What a helluva story for the people back home. Just as Clinton got within arm’s length (I had my media credentials clearly displayed), I reached out my right hand. The president instinctively responded with his right… only to have the first agent slap mine down rather rudely.

Clinton kept walking; looked back over his right shoulder and shrugged.

“Sorry, friend,” he said with a smile.

NO JUNE BUGS: It was 25 years ago tonight (May 31, 1999) that the Maple Leafs were eliminated at Buffalo in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. Marking the latest into the calendar year in which the club has played. That was the first season of Pat Quinn as coach of the Blue and White… and the first of four seasons with Curtis Joseph, the best Leafs goalie of the post–1967 era. To this point, the Leafs have never appeared in June.

The 2024 Stanley Cup final begins on June 8 and can go as late as June 24.

UTAH LETTERS: The relocated Arizona Coyotes will evidently not unveil a team logo until their second year of competition. Salt Lake City will be home to the franchise, beginning next season. Instead of a primary logo, the club will have the letters UTAH displayed diagonally across the front of the jersey. This happened once before… in the 1967 expansion that doubled the National Hockey League to 12 teams. Among the new entries was the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose brass simply could not settle on a jersey design before the 1967–68 season. As such, and as pictured, below, from a jersey in my collection, the Penguins emblazoned PITTSBURGH diagonally on the front of their initial uniforms. The home jersey, here, was predominantly light blue; the road jersey, white.

In Year 2, the Penguins placed their now–legendary circle logo on the uniform fronts.


13 comments on “It’s Elementary: Marner Has To Go

  1. Well, then, they should have traded Nylander, and still can, until July 1, when the new contract with the full no move kicks in. Big mistake not to sign Brandon Lisowsky. One can see things will only get worse for the Leafs. They are prospect poor and draft pick poor and won’t sign Lisowsky, probably in favour of some crap free agent that will help the team finish ninth, the Maple Leafs normal spot in the standings. But don’t forget to trade away more draft picks along the way.

  2. Unfortunately like a lot of other people I have come to the realization that I might never see another Leaf Cup win. So nine years ago I was telling my wife’s Uncle George who has 86 at the time about all the Leafs prospects and how they would win the Cup in the next few years. He answered , “I’ll never live to see them win another Cup.” Sure enough he died two years later just shy of 89. I guess he was a wiser man than I had realized. My wife’s dad is 95 and it is pretty much a given he won’t see another Leaf Cup. I’m 72 so maybe there is still a chance for me after a couple more of those ten year rebuilds the Leafs are famous for but I wouldn’t put money on it.

  3. Im not disputing or endorsing moving Marner. My view is that he isnt the solution or the problem. He is what he is. A very good regular season player and a mediocre playoff performer. We all get that.
    Dubas made the mistakes that have determined the fate that the Leafs actualized the last 4 or 5 years.
    First, he gave Taveras all that money, but no ability to move him in the last two years of his contract. That was just outright stupid.
    Second, he paid Reilly like he was a legit number 1 defenseman when he is at best your 3rd defenseman of 6, and also gave him the full no trade.
    The Leafs need a number one defenseman who can skate, pass up to the stars, and quarterback the powerplay. They dont have that guy. They paid Reilly like he is and was.
    Moving Marner is not going to solve these two above issues. Taveras comes off the books at the end of the year. They have to take that money and get a legit top defenseman.
    Pay Marner or replace him with someone similar, but either way, they are no good unless they shore up the offensive capability of the defense.
    My guess is they will ride out Marner and Taveras this year, because they have to, and then retool properly for the year after. Marner walks for nothing,but its not nothing as you can use his cap hit to get what you need. Taveras is washed up and they can use his cap hit to replace Marner with something that will perform…less in the regular season, more in the playoffs, for a lot less money and term. Treviling, at this stage, has no choice but to ride it out. Dubas put him in that position.
    At least he didnt get to screw them over again by overpaying for an overpaid Karlson. That would just be way too much to overcome at this stage.

  4. Howard, why is it Marner that has to? He has a no trade and so does Nylander. In reality Marner is a much more complete player and is more willing to get involved in physical situations than Willy. One no trade is as strong as the other. Invite Nylander to take a hike where he can play when he feels like it. Marner is important in many aspects of the Leaf team. Nylander is one dimensional. For my money I’d rather have the playmaking ultra important Marner for the next eight years than Willy’s flamingos and floating around goal sucking. In that regard, 100% of fans think that Marner is looking for a huge raise to about $12 mil. What if he was to shock everyone and accept a deal identical to Nylander that would put him in the good books with all of Leafs Nation? He would still get a raise.

  5. You can trade Marner, you can trade Matthews, you can trade Nylander. It won’t help. 50+ years of disappointment has shown us the problem is management. And you can’t trade that.

  6. Hi Howard.
    That Kevin McGran article was INFURIATING! How anybody who can correctly and consistently put their own pants on everyday even suggest that “running it back just once more” could possibly result in anything beyond 3-6 post season victories is jaw-dropping. The essence of the Corpse-4 plan is to spend as much as possible on them, then hope that your bargain goalie turns into a vezina candidate and one of your $10 scrap heap defencemen is a norris candidate in disguise.
    I suspect though that Kevin will be correct. MLSE will not trade little Mitch, or anyone else of their coddled 4 or 5. They’re too afraid of losing the trade, and the player going somewhere else where expectations of accomplishment and real accountability leads to playoff success. The bureaucratic cesspool that is MLSE has no clue about competition, accountability or creating success. Every year they trot out leaf management to mouth some empty platitude like, “Just win”, or “I believe in these guys”, or “We can and we will”, or “truculence”, or “snot” to make sure just enough of the fanbase and fan-media are onside for continued financial gain. Pelly said, “I’m not here to sell t-shirts.” and he’s right because they sell themselves even at inflated prices. He’s there to shore up the crumbling campaign to sell HOPE to a fanbase where an increasing segment sees none
    It’s always a bit of a treat to see the names of some of the posters to your blog. Seeing veteran NHL linesman, and particularly one of my favorites from the FAN590 days, Mike Hogan posting about football brings back good memories.

  7. Hi Howard. Thought one of your “Famous Bills” would include the late Bill Friday, with whom I had the honour of officiating with in the WHA, before we parted ways when the WHA and NHL merged in 1979. Bill was an excellent referee, and paved the way for officials in all sports to make a good living in officiating. I am honoured to have called him my mentor, and friend, as he was to many young officials who dreamed of working in the professional leagues. Rest in peace, Bill. We will all miss you, especially your dear wife, Donna, and your large and loving family. Ron Asselstine WHA and NHL (1972 to 19970)

  8. Did you know there is an Argos connection to those Penguin sweaters?


    “In 1965 Peter Block set out to secure an expansion franchise with help from State Senator Jack McGregor.

    McGregor’s wife, Carol, is credited with the original name and the colors were originally black and white before Jack Riley, the team’s first General Manager, came up with the colors of Colombia blue, Navy blue and white.

    Riley, an Ontario native, chose the colors of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and also of St. Michael’s College in Ontario.”

    1. Argos’ “Double Blue” colours were identified as Oxford blue and Cambridge blue first sported by the Toronto-based Argonaut Rowing Club.

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