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Have Leafs Fans Changed?

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

RELATED: Ulmer: A Question For Leafs Nation |
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Let me begin with a reminder: this story does not reflect the opinions of MLSE or the nice folks who run the hockey team.  In fact, these people would be within their rights to waterboard me once they read this conjecture-laced piece.

Time to carry on, shall we?

Leaf fans fascinate me.

Throughout the season, Coach Ron Wilson would regularly chide reporters for wanting to deify a player such as Nazem Kadri who hadn’t yet earned his stripes.

I never knew whether Wilson was directing his frustration at the fan base or its surrogates in the press box.

Maple Leaf fans have been called many unflattering things: suffocating, overzealous, hysterical and impatient.

Impatient. Really?

Last Thursday we posted a story called ‘A Question for Leafs Nation.’ It asked whether fans wanted the Leafs to pursue centre Brad Richards who could be a free agent July 1st.

If I was a fan instead of a seasoned observer with an omnipresent cool and a staggering intellect, I would be excited at the prospect of adding Richards.

The Leafs have enviable cap space. Richards will be a robust 32 when he gets back to the ice and while he missed a handful of games to concussion last season, he perfectly fits the club’s need for a number one centre. He can run a power play, feed Phil Kessel, win key faceoffs and provide a veteran voice on a young, emerging team.

For the sake of balance, I posted the other scenarios: deals with rival teams for a ludicrous list of names that might include Paul Stastny in Colorado, Jeff Carter in Philly or even Joe Thornton in San Jose.  Those trades of course would dispatch young talent, the same talent we are told is habitually overvalued in Toronto.

Most Leafs fans said no to signing Brad Richards. On the whole, they wanted no part of a deal for Richards that would consume five years and upwards of $30 million in payroll.

“As far as Brad Richards goes,” wrote Don-of-Lebanon, we don’t need him.”

“A five-year deal,” penned I-Am. “Shake your freakin heads…lol.”

“Simple answer,” wrote another. “No.”

I can find no easy explanation for this. I have always understood fans were keen on free agent signings. It isn’t their money, at least not directly. There’s no doubt Richards’s skills dovetail superbly into the Leafs needs.

Imagine what it will take to add that coveted number one centre via trade.

The traditional cost of a first-line player is a draft choice, a young roster player and a prospect. That would mean a late first-rounder, a Nazem Kadri or Carl Gunnarsson and likely one of the big three prospects: forwards Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne and gifted defenceman Jake Gardiner. We are just talking ballpark here but you get the idea.

If Leaf fans overvalued their players they would leap at free agency and keep all their overvalued prospects. Instead, fans want to crack the code with the right combination of material going the other way.

Leaf fans, where is the desperation? Where are the relics who remember the 1967 Cup win and the legion who do not?  Why are you not in their assembled fervor chanting for major surgery right now?

I mention radical action, you kvetch about the salary cap. You are supposed to want a towering home run. Instead you opt for a bunt single and a sacrifice the runner to second.

As a Leafs playoff team gets closer to taking shape, the patrons are becoming more conservative.

Leaf fans, do we know you but at all?
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