For those of you foolish enough to sink any emotional investment into the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 2018-19 season sucked. Point blank. It was garbage; a never-ending hailstorm of negativity and Oakley-clad uncles from Brampton from which you couldn’t escape even if you wanted to.
The worst part, though? You didn’t want to. You’re addicted to it, baby. We all are.
From the year’s hopeful beginning down to its alcohol-hazed end, federal law apparently barred both the Leafs and their fanbase from enjoying so much as a single, solitary moment of it. As in; not one.
John Tavares is making his long-awaited debut for his hometown team? Great! But selfish William Nylander hasn’t signed yet, so do me a favour and go get bent.
Oh, Nylander signed at the literal last second for what will, in less than 6 months (thank you, Jimmy Hayes. Or, is it Kevin? It’s Kevin, right? I dunno. They’re both not great) be a financial steal? Cool!
Now enjoy a full year in which the one half of Leafs fandom yet to grasp the definition of “pro-rated” and the other half with a spray chart on hand to judge your every life decision go to war with each other over whether or not “Ten-Million Willy” is overpaid.
The answer: Both of you just need to go outside.
Who could forget when Kyle Dubas somehow added two-time Stanley Cup champion, Jake Muzzin without subtracting from his active roster in the middle of the season. That was insane. How the heck did he pull that off? Well, here’s hoping the sport’s highest-paid coach can employ some of that Saskatchewan science and “make it work”.
What’s this? The former first-overall pick and face of the damn franchise inked a long-term extension to stay in Toronto and pledge his prime years to erasing the futility which continues to plague the Leafs organization for a half-century and counting? Amazing!
You now have roughly two hours to bask in this news before the agent of his supposed “best friend” runs to the Toronto Star like that toddler in your kid’s preschool class who one day will grow into the power-drunk president of a neighbourhood watch group, and publicly dumps all over it.
Even when the Leafs carried a 3-2 first-round series lead on their boogeyman rivals into a make-or-break home date, Mike “Galaxy Brain” Babcock threw it all away because he couldn’t bear the thought of benching a geriatric veteran and “aw shucks, mister” grinder with one goal between them while the season was on the line.
But, sure, Greg from Mimico who hasn’t done a pushup in over eight years, it all boiled down to Nylander’s effort level.
Oh, you thought we were done? Buddy, we’re not even at the best part.
To top it all off, Mr. “I Have ‘Accountability’ Tattooed Somewhere On My Body, But I Won’t Tell You Where” proceeded to take exactly zero of it at the same post-defeat press conference in which his boss, who has nothing to do with personnel deployment and gave him the best young core in hockey at no immediate cost, did the opposite.
The blame for some of that trash lies at the feet of the team itself. You can’t control what the organization does or doesn’t do, and therefore, you can’t be blamed for it. We’re all at the mercy of our blue and white overlords. It’s fine.
But Leafs fandom – or, more specifically, Leafs Twitter – doesn’t get off scot-free here, either. This is a fanbase that cannibalizes itself on the best of days and launches nuclear warheads at each other on the worst. The 2018-19 season, then, ended a lot like “Dr Strangelove”, with each supporter riding atop their very own missile set to descend upon the world below and guarantee mass death and destruction.
Congratulations! It worked. We’re all dead. Now can you cut the crap and just enjoy things for a while?
The Leafs are a better hockey team heading into this season than they twelve months ago. It’s true. You have a terrific summer to thank for it.
Beginning on Day Two of the draft, Dubas ripped Babcock’s entire toy chest from his farm-calloused hands and sent every possible weak link packing – most getting jettisoned to the barren wasteland of Ottawa. He then followed it up by acquiring Tyson Barrie (at half the cost, no less) to give Toronto its best right-shot defender since the Kennedy Assassination, stood firm amidst a ridiculous negotiation saga while simultaneously finding ways to give his team more cap freedom, and then signed at least one of the no-name fourth-liners with good underlying numbers who you spend beautiful summer afternoons inside composing tweet threads about.
There is one (1) bad contract left on this team. And not only did Cody Ceci stroll into town for a good cause – putting an end to five more years of Nikita Zaitsev glass-and-outs is doing The Lord’s work, if you ask me – but the Leafs can just punt him into the murky abyss of free agency at season’s end if he ultimately doesn’t work out.
The Mad Online backup who blamed his barely-.900 save percentage on a lack of emotion from his teammates is gone. So is the 38-year-old who happily logged top pair minutes on his off-side for what we came to understand as literally no reason. And as heartbreaking as it may be, the former 30-goal centre who moonlighted as a walking playoff suspension eventually followed suit, too.
What more can you ask for?
There is but a single domino left to fall now, in fact, and even it has a clear outcome. You see, when Mitch Marner finally realizes that his brand deal with Bob Dawson’s Diet Pork Rinds won’t translate into whichever third-rate market declares themselves willing to bow to his comical demands and decimate their cap for the next seven years, he’ll cave by September and put this nonsense behind him.
Frankly, the Leafs have given you, the fan, little reason to quibble. It’s up to you, the fan, now to uphold your end of the bargain.
Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll think I’m completely out of touch and consider my opinions utter trash. That’s totally fine. I wouldn’t even argue with that last one, to be honest. But at the very least, while you’re roasting me to a crisp behind a Twitter account I probably muted eight months ago, do me one last solid:
Have fun with it.