Ignore The Leafs - Start Talking About The Toronto Marlies
By Eric Rosenhek
I am sick and tired with all the nonsense that surrounds the Toronto Maple Leafs. This season has been a roller coaster of bullshit, frustration, contract extensions, coaching changes, goaltending problems and over-analysis.
Turn on the radio and every single sports-related show devotes nearly all of its programming to the Leafs. It’s audio poison from every source – the players, the front office, the fans and the media. Every day, there’s some stupid issue worth debating and it makes me want to throw my radio out the window.
Will Brian Burke be fired? Should Phaneuf keep his captaincy? Is Francois Allaire to blame for the goaltending problems? Is Kadri mature? Does Kessel care? Are there enough Ontario-born players? Would Rick Nash play for the Leafs? Trade Luke Schenn? Keep Luke Schenn? Do you want them to tank?
Sportsnet 590 The Fan is the voice of the Blue Jays, Raptors and TFC; but guess which team gets all the attention? I could complain. But the good people at Rogers, who are about to inherit a portion of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, will tell me their market research shows their audience prefers hockey content. They’re simply giving the people what they want.
Fine. I get it. Toronto is a Leafs-town.
It’s been a taxing season, especially for someone like me who doesn’t cheer for the Leafs. In 2010, I wrote an article about how the Leafs are climbing the ladder. Now, it’s an unknown state.
I’d love to write how I’m looking forward to the end of the regular season because I won’t have to listen to any more talk about the Leafs. But that’s not how things work in Toronto. The Leafs are on people’s minds, even during the summer.
So instead of complaining, I’m just going to listen and fume quietly.
But there is a silver lining
Regardless of where the Leafs finish, there will be playoff hockey in Toronto.
The American Hockey League’s Marlies are quietly finishing a successful regular season.
As of March 22 and with 10 games left, the Leafs’ top level farm team are leading the Northern Division and sitting second in the Western Conference with 81 points. Not bad for a team that finished fifth in its division and the 13th in the conference the previous season. Forward Mike Zigomanis is eighth in scoring, while goalie Ben Scrivens has the third best GAA.
Head coach Dallas Eakins should be commended for the work he’s done with the Marlies. One should certainly expect him to be coaching in the NHL eventually. But in the meantime, Eakins and his team are focused on the playoffs.
Nothing would be more pleasing than seeing the Marlies get the appropriate support and attention as they vie for the Calder Cup. Life as an AHL player is not glamorous. However, these players work extremely hard because a call to the parent club could come at anytime.
A packed Ricoh Coliseum might be too much to expect. However, fans are slowly realizing there is a cheaper and more satisfying alternative to the over-priced products found at the Air Canada Centre.
According to the AHL’s website, the Marlies have averaged 5347 spectators over 33 home games this season. That’s significantly up from the last two seasons – 4694 in 2010-11 and 4070 in 2009-10, both over a 40-game schedule.
So while the Stanley Cup is out of the question, supporters of the Leafs can still look forward to a playoff run this year. There’s no reason for fans to ignore the Marlies. It’s still professional hockey, it’s under the MLSE banner and it still means something.Besides, it’s only fair for Leafs Nation to have a little inner peace.