The Toronto Maple Leafs have suffered on a epic scale this season, firing coaches, trading off talent, suspending Kadri for alarm-clock-related-shortcomings, and it’s no surprise that the frustrations are beginning to boil over in Toronto.
It’s not uncommon for players to scrap with on another during practice. This happens to successful and unsuccessful teams alike — and when they’re participating in ‘battle drills’ designed to simulate the speed and tenacity of NHL-level competition, problems like these can easily arise.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to claim that at some level, this is a manifestation of the large-scale problems the Leafs have been facing for the entire season. Phanuef and Kessel have been taken firmly to task by the ferocious Canadian media. You don’t have to look any further than Steen’s resurgence with the St.Louis Blues for how refreshing it is for some players to leave such a pressurized environment.
If Kessel and Phanuef get moved on Draft Day, the media bears some responsibility for pushing them out the door — and if he succeeds Tyler-Seguin-in-Dallas-Style after being coerced out of Toronto, the entire organization should re-invent their culture. It hasn’t worked for fifty years, what’s left to lose?
I’m not saying the media bears the weight of the collective Canadian cup drought, and even if they did, they operate at the mercy of their hockey-crazed readers. They’re giving the people what they want, even if it’s openly asking questions about Kessel’s weight, and we’d all be making a straw-man out of journalists just trying to do their jobs. I get it.
At the same time, Carolina, Anaheim, Dallas, Tampa Bay, New Jersey, and Detroit have all won championships as smaller market teams who objectively don’t bear the same media burdens as their Canadian counterparts. Every season brings with it enough adversity and obstacles — why blame any of the players who don’t wish to add to them an obsessive and often times petty media mob ready to dish out vigilante justice to players who annoy or displease them?