It's perhaps understandable that folks in Toronto have seasonal confusion. After all, while the rest of us welcome spring, Torontonians think it must be autumn as once again the Leafs fall.
The Maple Leafs annual fade in the NHL standings is becoming sadly predictable and routine. Their race to the bottom, of course, is not unique. Other teams have suffered longtime playoff droughts.
What is unique, however, is the continued media coverage the Leafs enjoy even when they stink up the joint. Despite the existence of six other NHL teams in Canada, five of whom are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, Toronto still gets more ink, talk and video.
While Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and Ottawa fight and claw to join Montreal in this year's playoffs, it seems as if the biggest stories in hockey still revolve around the Maple Leafs. What's wrong with the Leafs? Is Dion Phaneuf to blame? Will Phil Kessel be traded?
Those might be interesting things to talk about over the summer break but not now. Other Canadian teams are actually competing in meaningful games and there are exciting races that are far more interesting than Maple Leafs navel gazing.
This Leafs-centric coverage is galling, especially here in my hometown of Ottawa where the Senators are in the midst of a miracle run that might land them in the playoffs. Part of that miracle is the unexpected string of victories put together by backup goalie Andrew Hammond, a story that deserves more coverage than the effect of Phil Kessel's contract on Toronto's salary cap.
I thought I'd grown used to the Maple Leafs favoritism. I've come to expect and even accept the subtle bias by the as-yet-unretired play-by-play octogenarian Bob Cole and the not-so-subtle favoritism shown by 81-year-old professional pest Don Cherry.
But the trend is becoming so pervasive that it's time to speak out. The latest insult came after the recent playoff-style game between Ottawa and Boston, two teams fighting for the final playoff spot in the eastern conference. Rather than take time to analyze and enjoy the result of that game, the network immediately switched to the Toronto-San Jose game to celebrate a meaningless goal by the Leafs in what was ultimately a 4-1 victory by the Sharks.
The fact that the Leafs are a Toronto team probably has a lot to do with the excessive media coverage. As "Toronto's national team", the assumption is that Canadians from coast to coast care deeply about their fate. Sadly, there is some truth to that as Leafs fans seem to be everywhere which can be summarized by Canada's most annoying two-word phrase: Leafs Nation.
Such coverage may be justified when the Leafs are doing well but it's sure hard to take when they're headed to the NHL cellar. Yes, hockey talk shows on radio and TV do cover the ongoing races involving other Canadian teams but they seem to spend an equal amount of time on such fascinating questions as whether or not Toronto should join the race to the bottom in hopes of increasing its chances of drafting Canada's next superstar Connor McDavid.
It's all well and good for Maple Leafs fans in Toronto to engage in continuing soul searching and tea leaves reading. After all, they're really, really good at it. Remember, this is one of the richest sports franchises in the world. Yet, the team hasn't made it to the Stanley Cup finals since 1967.
It's hard to have sympathy for fans who mindlessly support a wealthy franchise which, for many years, did little to improve the product. As some have noted, management could put skating pigs on the ice and still turn a profit.
Here's hoping some of the media folks will pay attention and start making Maple Leafs coverage commensurate with their success but I don't have much confidence that will ever happen. Until the latest generation of Leafs fans dies off and Toronto is no longer the center of the Canadian universe, I suspect we're going to have to suffer the ongoing media fascination with the team. I'd ask you to write the Prime Minister and urge him to get involved but, sadly, he's a Leafs fan, too.