Any Canadian who follows the National Hockey League knows the Toronto Maple Leafs. You don’t even need to be a hockey fan to know how badly the team performs. It’s one of those things that has become part of the modern culture in Canada. So, why is Toronto Maple Leaves so bad?
Toronto Maple Leafs’ bad reputation is due to its Stanley Cup drought since 1967. Over the years, certain factors have cemented this reputation. These include money-oriented management, expensive tickets, underperforming players, poor coaching decisions, and fans not getting value for their money.
Regardless of this reputation, it’s still one of the most successful teams financially. Its fan base is also far above most competitors, despite its perennial failures. Here, we discuss the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs and why the team is so bad.
History of Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs is one of the most successful in the NHL. Established in 1917, the team’s name was initially known as Toronto Arenas before becoming Toronto St Patricks in 1919. After Conn Smythe bought the team in 1927, he changed its name to Toronto Maple Leafs. This is after the cap badges of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. The cap distinguished the Canadian army from other commonwealth forces during the war. Today, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment own the team and other sports teams in the city.
The team is part of the Original Six in the NHL that survived 1942 to 1967. Since its establishment, it has won 13 Stanley Cups championships. A record bested only by the Montreal Canadiens. But it hasn’t reached the final of the Stanley Cup since 1967, making it the longest drought in the NHL. Moreover, it’s the only Original Six team that hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since the NHL expansion. The failure to win the NHL in the past 54 years has earned the team a bad reputation in the league and all over Canada. But this hasn’t stopped it from being a successful team financially.
Why is Toronto Maple Leafs a Bad Team?
The prolonged drought of the Toronto Maple Leafs is due to several reasons. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact causes of its problems. But the following factors have all contributed to the bad performance of the team and its reputation over the years:
1. Fans Don’t Get Value for Money
When fans support a sports team, they do so primarily because of the bragging rights when the team wins. Maple Leafs’ fans don’t have these bragging rights because the team has not won the major championship in the past 54 years. It has also crashed out early from the series playoffs since 2006. All these happen even though the team has the highest ticket prices in the NHL at US$128.69 as of the 2019/20 season. The average ticket price, according to Forbes, is US$205.42. That’s far above what fans of the other teams in the big six pay. The ticket price is likely due to the high demand for tickets from its large fan base.
2. Ownership focused on Profits Over Winning
Toronto Maple Leafs have one the wealthiest ownership in the league. Over the years, the team owners have cared more about the profits than winning. Even if they care about winning, it’s not translating to on-field success. The owners seem to care about only charging high prices for tickets rather than the team’s management. Even though things have gotten a little better in terms of investment into the team, the results aren’t reflected yet. It seems that Maple Leafs have been derailed for decades due to ownership.
Part of the bad management of the team reflects in the trades the team has made over the years. While it has had its fair share of good deals, the percentage of bad trades in the Leaf’s history exceeds the good ones. The result of these bad trades reflects in below part performances for the past five decades.
3. Expensive Tickets
Watching a Toronto Maple Leafs game is far from affordable. Spending over CAD100 to watch just one game isn’t exactly exciting, especially when one considers that the team is very likely not to win. Compared to several other entertainment activities in Toronto, watching the Maple Leafs will rank very low in affordability. But affordability is a major issue for hockey games generally. Most Canadian hockey teams charge above CAD100 for game tickets.
4. Inadequate and Underperforming Players
The quality of players in the Toronto Maple Leafs is also a problem. Over the years, the team has suffered from not having the right player for critical positions. One of such is the lack of a true No. 1 center. This has cost the team for years as there’s no table-setter for the team, limiting its key players’ goal-scoring abilities. Goaltending and Defence are other major issues for the team. The challenge with not having the right players for positions is that any injury to key players usually destabilizes the team.
Beyond the lack of right players for the right position, another significant issue here is the several underperforming players on the team. Many players are on the team who are earning a considerable amount but have failed to deliver in the past few seasons. The problem with having underperforming players under contract is that they don’t contribute enough to the team. Apart from that, their value in the trade market also makes it an obstacle for the team to trade them for better players that can improve the team.
5. Poor Coaching Decisions
Over the years, poor coaching decisions have also affected the chance of the Toronto Maple Leafs to end their championship drought. While the coaching alone isn’t the only problem, there have been situations where the coach was at fault. A good example is Mike Babcock, who started on a good run. But his bad decision-making, especially regarding how he deploys his best players, and his tactics, ended up costing the team.
Toronto Maple Leafs remain one of the biggest teams in the NHL despite its poor on-field performances for decades. Off-field, it’s a very successful team commercially. But what matters to fans is the championship. As far as that’s concerned, Toronto Maple Leafs is a bad team.